Living in a shed

A survey reveals the terrible housing situation for international students

By Susan Wichgers

Forced to live in a shed, renting an Airbnb or illegal digs with a family: internationals will sleep anywhere until they find somewhere decent to live. And that can take a long time, a recent survey sh

Which is why international student William Murray-Uren (25, Political Science) and ONS, a political party for students, held a survey about housing problems among international students. The results were presented to the Executive Board of Leiden University on Tuesday, in the hope that the university will do something about the situation.

“It’s impossible to find a place before you arrive in the Netherlands”, says Murray-Uren, who comes from Scotland.
“I arrived in September and rented a room in a flat in Merenwijk from a 26-year-old mother of two who had an aggressive ex-husband from whom, as I discovered later, she was hiding. A social worker visited every week, so I had to make sure I was out, because I wasn’t supposed to be there. I’ve only had my own place since January, in a DUWO house.”
He decided to do something after a heated debate arose on a Facebook page about specifically only Dutch students being welcome at hospiteren rounds (when students “audition” for a room).
“I got together with ONS and compiled a survey. It was online for two days and we received lots and lots of responses. It just goes to show how wide-spread the problem is”, Murray-Uren adds.
“It’s a pity, because everything else in Leiden is amazing. I’m very happy here and the education is good, but the housing problem really spoils it for you.”
The ONS party has the results of the survey. “We received a total of about 150 responses – we were overwhelmed. Most reports were not very happy”, explains Alderik Oosthoek, from ONS.
“Many internationals stay at Airbnbs at first, until they find digs. One person had even been living in a shed about an hour out of town.”
Oosthoek believes that the university should provide better information for international students.
“There’s a huge difference in expectations: these students arrive and expect the university to have arranged accommodation, or that they will at least find somewhere to stay very quickly. I wonder if things will have improved by September.”
Murray-Uren believes that there are simply too many international students in Leiden.
“The university is not allowed, by law, to build houses, so they should stop trying to attract large numbers of internationals. My friends in Scotland say they see advertisements for Leiden University all over the place. If there’s a flood, the first thing to do is to turn off the tap.”
He was pleased with the university’s response.
“The Board have realised they need to do something. The problem is far from solved, but we’re on the right track.”

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Living in a shed

Forced to live in a shed, renting an Airbnb or illegal digs with a family: internationals …