Living in the Esdoornflat: ‘At least the people are nice’
The air is stiff on the hot and humid Thursday afternoon in Groningen. Neatly stacked bikes are baking under the unforgiving sun in front of the Esdoornflat, a social housing facility. All 120 emergency student rooms in the large rectangular building are booked, and hopeless students are still being turned away at the door. Disappointed, they move on.
Inside, the hallways are empty. The echo of footsteps follows Sandra Gil (21) up the flight of stairs leading to her first-floor corridor. ‘It’s surprisingly quiet here’, says the Spanish psychology student who came to the RUG on exchange. ‘I haven’t seen anyone yet.’
Most of the temporary tenants are out in the heat, looking for a permanent place to live. The Esdoornflat will only be available until October 9. Afterwards, the building will undergo a complex refurbishment. How can you settle into your new life when you know you have to leave soon?
‘I’m still a bit shocked’, says Sandra. She had to stay in an Airbnb with her parents before she learned about emergency housing options. She knew it would be difficult to find housing, but she didn’t know the situation ‘was this bad’.
The university began sending prospective students regular emails about housing issues months before their arrival. But many still struggled to book a room on the university-sanctioned platform, At Home in Groningen. ‘I kept getting rejected, so my only option was to stay in a hotel and now here’, says chemical engineering student Shika Angelique (23) from Ghana. She chose a master programme at the RUG over programmes in the US, optimistic that she would be able to work out a suitable living situation.
But she wasn’t feeling so optimistic when she saw the Esdoornflat. ‘I wasn’t entirely convinced when I saw it from the outside. It was a bit messy and the room is quite minimalist.’
Students live in plainly furnished private rooms where they share a kitchen, three showers, and three toilets with 14 other tenants. ‘The oven is too dirty to use and our rooms don’t have a wardrobe or a mirror. But there’s a mirror in the elevator, so I do my makeup there’, laughs Shika.
Could be worse
‘When I first saw the building, I was like “What the hell?”’ says music student Johannes Rissler (28). ‘The kitchen and bathrooms were dirty and the fridge smelled horrible.’ Rissler cleaned the communal kitchen by himself. ‘But at least the place is full of nice people. It could be worse.’