'It's basically a lottery'
Is staying in the recently opened Pink Flamingo Hostel in The Hague. According to the receptionist, multiple guests of the hostel are international students still looking for a room.
‘I came from Germany by car this Sunday. Earlier this summer I came here for a week to do some castings for rooms. I was looking for a room in a student house at first for the full experience, but now I don’t care anymore, I’m desperate to find anything to stay. I even looked at apartments in Delft.
‘In the meantime I’m going to stay here. I hope to find some friends, so I can stay at somebody’s place. In case of emergency, I can sleep in my car, if I don't have any money left. I am an Erasmus student, so I get funding, but I haven’t received it yet. So basically I’m paying for everything myself right now. It’s twenty euros a night to sleep here, which is fine, but I can’t stay here that long.
‘Not speaking dutch and not being here all the time to do viewings are the biggest obstacles in finding a room. You have to compete with 150 other people who want the same room. It’s difficult to make a choice, I think most people don’t even read all the messages they get. It’s basically a lottery who gets invited.
‘I was worried for a long time, but at this point I’m trying to make the best of it and see it as an adventure. It’s exciting on one hand, but depressing on the other. I’m afraid it will ruin my experience.
‘When I go home, I will probably tell other people not to study in Leiden. I don’t want to do that, because I really like the city and the country. But in the end I can’t recommend coming here.’
'I thought I'd give it a try'
He’s one of the happy few who did find a room from Italy, but he had to find a temporary place to sleep until he can move in. He stays in Hotel De Barones.
‘I came to Leiden on Sunday evening, before that I stayed with friends in Amsterdam. My parents were already here, in this hotel. The owners overheard us talking about my situation: I had already found a room, but I can’t move in until the end of this week, so I was looking for an affordable place to stay a couple of nights. I thought it was too much to go couchsurfing, I didn’t want to ask someone to host me for five nights.
‘The owners of the hotel were so kind to offer me this room. It wasn’t booked, and now I can sleep here for a reduced price until I can move into my room. I think I pay around fifty euros a night.
‘I am so lucky to have found a room. I saw an ad of the room on Facebook. Twenty other people had already reacted by the time I sent a message, but I thought I’d give it a try. The landlady told me she had received some 120 messages. No idea why she chose me, but I’m very happy with it.
‘Everyone here is so nice. I went to Fixers (a tech shop in Haarlemmerstraat, ed.) to buy a new adapter for my laptop, because my Italian one doesn’t work here. The guy gave it to me for free. Maybe it’s a kind of karma, I don’t know.
‘I’ve studied in different countries, in total I have searched for a room five times. At other universities they also warn you sometimes that it’s hard to find housing, but nowhere it was as bad as it is here. It was stressful to find a house, but it definitely didn’t ruin my experience. I am super happy to be here.’
'It shouldn't be normal'
She’s from Cyprus and stays in the same hostel as Kaiser, but in a dorm with less people. She pays thirty euros a night.
‘I’ve been looking for a long time from Cyprus, but I didn’t find anything. Most people don’t even respond, and those who did, were looking for a working person and not a student. From another country it’s very difficult to find a house here. You have to have someone to do the viewings for you.
‘Yesterday I had a viewing and I have another one today. I have no idea what kind of house it is, I only have the address. At this point I can’t reject anything, really. I’ve been sleeping in the hostel for almost two weeks, I will be staying here until Friday at least. I’m looking to find another place in Leiden, either a hostel, an Airbnb, or a sublet for a month, but otherwise I’ll stay here.
‘I didn’t expect this, it’s very disappointing. I’ve studied in four different countries, and I never had a problem with housing like this before. It’s not like we’re asking for charity, we’re here to pay for a room.
‘A friend told me she was studying in the UK. There was a shortage of student housing there as well, and everyone got out and protested until everyone had a house. Here, everyone says: “this is how it is in Leiden”. It shouldn’t be normal.
‘Maybe the university should take in less students if they know they don’t have the room to host everyone. It’s not like only a small minority can’t find a room, it’s a large group. The university tells you that it’s very difficult to find a house here, still nobody really expects that it is going to be this difficult. But I’m not going back to Cyprus. I’ve tried so hard to get into this program, I’m not willing to leave it for any reason.’