Extra rooms for international students

You spend months on end sleeping in your car, couchsurfing at friends’ houses, or even having to book expensive hotels. Accommodation problems in The Hague mean that students sleep here, there and everywhere. International students in particular have a hard time finding a room. German student, Maren Flunkert (22), shared her experiences of her “insanely long and tiring search.”

When her graduation internship approached, time started to run out for the European Studies student. She had been sleeping in her car ever since summer because she was unable to find a place to live. “Fortunately, I had a full-sized mattress in the back, but it started to get cold. I was going to do an internship, but I didn’t have a regular place to stay. I didn’t have a real bed, a warm shower or a place for myself. When it became too cold, I was able to spend the night at friends’ houses. But what if I didn’t’ know anyone?

Accommodation shortage

Maren’s story is representative of the housing shortage today. Not only The Hague, but also many other Dutch student cities suffer from an acute housing shortage. In contrast, the number of international students continues to rise, which means that the demand for rooms outstrips supply. “Since international students only stay for a short time, few landlords will accept us,” added Maren. “Our only chance is if we pay high rents, but even then the chance is minimal.”

Extra rooms

In these times of extreme housing need, international students need all the help they can get. That is why the International Office of The Hague University of Applied Sciences will be making around 150 extra rooms available in August 2019. This means that the number of rooms specifically intended for international students will increase to around 650 rooms. Maren thinks that this is not enough, but it will definitely help. “It’s important that the university of applied sciences realises that the housing market has deteriorated. It is far worse this year than in 2015, when I also spent a short time studying in the Netherlands. Naturally, education at The Hague University of Applied Sciences should also remain accessible for everyone.”

Good information

It starts to get you down when you don’t have a house. “It seems at times as if everyone else is able to find a house except for you. It feels like you’ve failed,” said Maren. “You feel isolated, your academic performance is at risk, and you agree to appalling situations out of desperation.” Slum landlords, deliberate intimidation, too many students in a room that is too small. Maren has heard more than enough distressing stories. “For this reason, good information is extremely important. You need to know what is waiting for you when you come to study in the Netherlands. And you need to know that you are not the only one.”

Inside information

In addition to good information, Maren argues for a network for emergencies, where students who have accommodation and those without are able to contact each other. “Students can help one other. They can help out with a temporary place to sleep on a couch, but also with inside information. I would have been very happy with this. When is the best time to register with DUWO? What are the normal rents? Which websites have useful information? I would have liked to have had more advice. Well, I was left to depend on my own devices and on my friends.”

We Hear You

THUAS listened to Maren and other international students. In addition to extra rooms, the International Office is also acting as an intermediary between students and landlords, through DUWO for example. Maren thinks this is a good start. “The new first-year students really need all the help they can get. I eventually found a fantastic flat in Scheveningen through the European Studies Facebook group. However, that was down to pure chance and a lot of luck. Many other students will still end up going through the same tiring search as I did. Let’s give them a hand!”