The black sheep of student accommodations
‘Winscho is too
crazy to handle’
‘Is Winscho as bad as its reputation?’, an international student who’d just been accepted to the UG asked on Twitter approximately a year ago. ‘I’m not a big fan of parties or overly drunk people.’
‘I’m a bit concerned about the reviews of the building’, said another student on Reddit. ‘It’s not like I don’t like parties, but I’d also like my own personal space and I believe in balancing work and fun.’
The answers to those questions don’t leave much to the imagination. Winscho is the party house, confirms @artsvenden on Twitter, ‘where some studies pre-drink at the building and then go to the city. The silver lining is that you will make friends pretty easy.’
‘The walls are super thin and you can hear EVERYTHING’, says former resident u/sup__grannies on Reddit.
‘It’s terrible here. People are loud, inconsiderate of any personal space or quiet hours, and just trashy in general’, says one of the many reviews on Google.
It’s fair to say that Winscho, named for its location at the Winschoterdiep, has a bit of a reputation as the black sheep among the international student houses in Groningen. That reputation was reinforced by the pandemic parties in October that caused student housing corporation SSH to put Winscho under surveillance. And it was reinforced even more this weekend, when a video was leaked on Instagram about yet another non-corona proof party, which Sikkom subsequently published on its website.
But is it really so terrible to live at Winscho? And if so, why?
People are inconsiderate of any personal space
‘It’s the anonymity’, thinks medical student Helene Hormann, who lives at SSH Moesstraat 8. She has visited Winscho before and found the communal areas to be quite nice, even though it looks like ‘a cheap hotel’. ‘People can get away with things more easily.’
It’s because of the ongoing cleanliness issues and poor facilities, thinks Giriraj Goenka, an international business student who lives in Upsilon. ‘I’ve heard a lot about Winscho, because I had friends living there’, he shares. ‘They said it was dirty and isolating. Which is strange, because Winscho has the biggest rooms out of all the SSH buildings.’
Psychology student Sakshi Shah lived in Winscho and felt that staying was definitely not an option. She moved there in August of 2019 and left for Upsilon in January of last year. ‘The facilities at Upsilon are way nicer, and you can get so much more there for the significant sum of money that we are paying for these accommodations.’
Winscho was Sakshi’s last resort, as no other accommodation was available at the time. The most important reason she wanted to leave was because of the washrooms. ‘I would have to walk quite a while just to go to the bathroom, even when it was dark. That didn’t make me feel very safe.’ Even in the washrooms, she says, no one took the time to clean anything. Hair was everywhere and there was not a lot of privacy. Not only that, but nothing would ever get fixed quickly, and strangely enough, people would steal toilet paper.
And then there was the matter of convenience. ‘Biking to Zernike takes twenty minutes if you’re fast, but for me it’s closer to thirty minutes.’ Considering the fact that everything in Groningen is quite close, Winscho seems like a world away.
However, the remote location doesn’t mean students won’t travel the extra distance for the parties there. Law student Marcus – not his real name – arrived at the Winschoterdiep last summer. Living at Winscho simply means you are swarmed with parties, ‘whether you like it or not’, he says.
In the beginning he enjoyed the constant busyness, but it dragged on for too long. ‘There were two parties that happened during corona where the police came.’ The first time, only one police car came. But the second time, he says, they showed up as if they were raiding the place. ‘They arrived with six squad cars, it was crazy.’
Winscho now feels like a Colombian prison
It wasn’t just Winscho residents at the parties, but students from other SSH accommodations, too. Dutch students heard about it via social media and decided to show up as well.
The result was that the SSH and the management of Winscho hired private security to keep the residents in line. If you’re in the hallway without a face mask, or have strayed too far from your own room, you will be reprimanded and sent back. Visitors are no longer allowed on the premises.
To Marcus, his home now feels like a ‘Colombian prison’. The building is divided into four different blocks and each basically has its own tribal group, he says. ‘You don’t socialise with other blocks and you stick to your own gang. If you’re not in a group, it’ll be hard to get by.’
There has been petty theft, like a credit card disappearing and people stealing from vending machines. Even vandalism – sixty lamp cases were removed for no reason. Recreational drug use has become normal, Marcus says. Management is trying their best to keep things under control, but according to Marcus ‘Winscho is too crazy to handle’.
Corona frustrates the residents enormously, he says. ‘It leads people to do things they normally wouldn’t have done. In a way, this community is falling apart.’
He wouldn’t mind leaving Winscho for Upsilon now. ‘There is always something going on, which makes it hard to study. Also, the internet is shit and I can’t even follow an online class.’ It’s the social dynamic of Winscho that has made him stay this long, he adds. ‘I would definitely miss the people.’
Sense of community
Because, yes, even though Winscho might be crazy and dirty, many former residents still love the place. Like European languages and cultures student Róisín McManus, who lived in Winscho in 2016. ‘Socially it was great, managerially it was not’, she says.
It’s messy and chaotic, but you’ll have the time of your life
‘The kitchens were always filthy. Cooking in there was an extreme sport.’ But what do you expect when you share kitchens and washrooms with around twenty to forty students? ‘Dirtiness is almost inevitable’, she says. There were always people around, nothing would work, and it would take forever for someone to come and fix anything. ‘There were also mice, mould, a mattress that looked like it came from prison and the carpets were repulsive’, Róisín says.
But still, she enjoyed the place. ‘It was fun, because there were always people around.’ People from different countries and cultures, which brought a sense of community with it.
Living the student life means you have to put up with the occasional dirtiness and the rumours that go around. Some can handle that, while others would rather not. ‘I made some good friends there ( I stayed last year) and it was indeed quite fun’, says u/sup__grannies on Reddit.
Or as @Raminax described it: ‘It’s messy. It’s dirty, it’s chaotic. You will have the time of your life though.’