Available immediately: rooms (because many students are leaving)
Because of the corona virus, some students choose to go back to their parents or to their home country. The Housing Office, which is responsible for international students’ accommodation, caters to tenants who want to leave.
Susan Wichgers
Thursday 26 March 2020

Liv Marie Rønhovde (23, clinical psychology) is from Norway, and rents a house with three roommates. Theres a two month notice, so she has to pay rent until June, but she’s on the fence if she should leave sooner: ‘I don’t know if it’s better to stay here or to go home’.

 She’s listed her room on Facebook, but it hasn’t attracted a lot of interest so far, she says. ‘Hopefully people who are starting next year will start looking for a room soon.’

Her American roommate has already left, for fear that all transatlantic flights would be cancelled. Rønhovde hasn’t booked a ticket yet, herself: ‘In the worst case scenario, if the borders close, I’m sure people from Norway can still go back. And in the absolute worst scenario, if I can’t go home and have lost my room, I can stay with friends.’ 

Student Rachel Losacco (23) is from the United States as well, but her flight doesn’t leave until April 9th. ‘I’m really worried it will be cancelled. I hope they find another way to get American citizens back.’ She’s now in her final semester of her master’s degree in Astronomy, and trying to find a new tenant for her room.

‘I rent through Duwo, so I don’t really have to find someone myself’, she explains. ‘But I put in a floor, and bought a lot of furniture. I want to find someone who wants to keep all of that, otherwise I have to take it out.’

She hasn’t received a lot of responses either. ‘I got about ten messages, mostly from people who weren’t students’, Losacco says. ‘One student from India responded, but has now decided to go home too.’

‘It’s mostly the exchange students that are planning to leave, or have already left. Master and bachelor students aren’t cancelling their contracts that much.’ 

'It's mostly the exchange students who are leaving'

At Duwo, a lot of internationals are cancelling their contracts, Gijsbert Mul (director of Accommodate and Public Affairs) confirms. That’s why the university’s Housing Office, that usually rents out rooms to international students for a period of six months, wants to cater to these students, says spokesperson Caroline van Overbeeke: ‘Students who want to leave or have already left, now have one month’s notice. If there are vacant rooms, they are on our account.’

 So far, there aren’t a lot of vacant rooms. Mul: ‘People are still moving like usual. Students are responding to listings and the waiting period hasn’t changed.’

But the ‘hospiteeravonden’, the gatherings where current tenants pick their new roommate, are a bit trickier now. ‘You can see that people need to get used to doing that digitally. But students are creative, so rooms with shared facilities are still rented out.’

‘It’s mostly the exchange students that are planning to leave, or have already left. Master and bachelor students aren’t cancelling their contracts that much.’

But Eline van Wingerden (24, international relations) from Brabant did. For the final few months of her master’s, she’s decided to leave Leiden and move back in with her parents. ‘I was going to do that anyway in a couple of months, so I’ve moved it forward.’

Van Wingerden doesn’t have a lot of trouble dealing with her departure, but is sad that it is out of necessity and not how it was planned. ‘I lost my income because of corona. I worked at a theater and as a tutor. It was all called off. So to pay two more months of rent…’

 She is back with her parents in Brabant, and next to following her final classes online and finishing her thesis, she is looking for a job. ‘That is a challenge. Everything is at a standstill.’