Housing Chaos: First Year Students Find Themselves at Local Hostel

By Cille Kaiser

— While the vast majority of first year students have now had at least three weeks to settle in the dorms, a handful are yet to move their furniture in or are, in some cases, still awaiting for a room assignment. According to the AUC Admissions Office, approximately ten first semester students had not yet been assigned accommodation at the dorms by the start of introduction week on August 29th, 2016. 

The reason for this, Student Life Officer Vinika Porwal explained, lies behind “a confluence of many different things”, including an unusually high number of admissions and a low number of early drop-outs. Porwal said that “DUWO [the housing corporation providing accommodation to AUC-students] and the staff here at AUC are looking at all the options possible” to find housing for the dorm-less students as soon as possible.

AUC has offered those who weren’t housed by the beginning of the introduction week temporary accommodation at the Generator Hostel, located on the Mauritskade, a 10-minute bicycle ride away from the Academic Building. According to Junior Jacobs, a Dutch student still waiting for a room, AUC initially offered to compensate for the costs of their stay with a maximum of €25 per night for a period of up to two weeks. In the same e-mail, AUC said they “expect everybody to be able to enter their room before 9 September at the latest”.

Jacobs himself initially decided to decline AUC’s offer. “I met a person with a single room during the introduction week who offered me to sleep on [his] sofa”, he explained. Although Jacobs found this situation was not ideal, he chose to stay with his friend because he deemed it important in order to grow into the community, especially during the very first week. In spite of this temporary solution, Jacobs admitted that it had been a rough start for him, and he eventually did move to the Generator Hostel, which is where he is currently staying. “I haven’t had time to settle down”, he explained. “I thought the waiting period for my accommodation would be shorter, so I decided to go to the hostel [after all]”. Despite the fact that Jacobs’ stay now exceeds both the time and price of AUC’s initial offer, the university is still paying for the bed.

Georgie Brash, a first-year student from England, did initially decide to take up on AUC’s offer and has stayed at the Generator Hostel since the 29th of August. She described it as “really decent”, but not a convenient place to live due to the lack of sufficient study space and a kitchen. After spending much of her time at a friend’s apartment in Watergraafsmeer, Brash now been assigned a room in the dorms. She signed the contract last Monday, two weeks after the start of Introduction Week, and is currently busy getting settled in. Although the situation has been resolved for her, she said she was lucky to know someone in Amsterdam. “I managed to store my things easily but if I hadn’t known anyone in the city, I’m not sure what I would have done”, she explained.  Despite all the troubles, Brash admitted that “overall it’s still been a good few weeks”.

Robert Devon Carr, a first year student from New York, resided in the Generator Hostel from the 4th until the 12th of September. “[It was] a very nice location, actually. Going to AUC wasn’t too much of a bother, it was more the stress of having to still think about moving into my actual room that annoyed me”. Carr shared a dorm room with two female students in the same situation, and moved into a double room in the dorms last Monday.

Jacobs, one of two remaining students still waiting to move in, said that it has been difficult to get in touch with DUWO over the matter and receive updates on the current status of the situation. According to him, he was told during the beginning of the first week of school that a room would be available by the end of that week; by that time, however, DUWO informed him that he may not be able to move in until the end of September.

Jacobs has now been offered a 40 m2 single room, but with the rent being roughly €200 higher than standard-size single rooms, he cannot afford to live there. “I hope that another student will be willing to move in, so they can take over this room”, he explained. In the meantime, Jacobs is trying to sort this out by himself via Facebook. Although some people have showed interest in the room, there is little he can do in terms of arrangements. “That is DUWO’s bureaucracy”, he said, “I don’t have any power over it myself”. Jacobs thought that there is a lack of clarity between him, DUWO and AUC about who is responsible for solving the situation. “It doesn’t speed up the process”, he said. The DUWO Communications office did not respond to phone inquiries by the time of publication of this article.

This is not the first time that first year students have been temporarily housed outside of the dorms. Second year student Oliver Bleeker, who stayed in the Stayokay hostel near Javaplein when he came to AUC in February 2015, said February starters in particular are regularly given temporary accommodation because February graduates are only required to move out after the new students begin their introduction period. Bleeker stayed in the hostel with six to eight other students, and was able to move into the dorms after just four days. For some students this year, the wait has been much longer: as opposed to the February period, there is no certainty today as to when new space will be created by students moving out.

Second year student and Peer Support team member Juul Spaan who, like Bleeker, spent three nights at the Stayokay hostel in February 2015, contacted all students without accommodation to offer help. Spaan, who works closely together with Porwal as a member of the Peer Support team, felt that students had to “know that their situation was taken seriously. By offering support and making them aware that we were there, we hopefully made them feel a bit better and confident enough to come to us if anything bothered them”.

Porwal said AUC understands and sympathizes with the inconvenient situation these students are in. “I hope it comes across that everyone knows this isn’t an ideal situation,” she acknowledged. Just like a commercial airline would overbook a flight under the assumption that a number of passengers will not show, Porwal explained, “colleges make estimates of how many students they expect to come in, and how many students could leave”. According to her, more qualified applicants made it to AUC this year, and the college made more offers of acceptance. “After the offers were made, more students chose to enroll,” Porwal said. “I think at the same time, this past year, more students were retained who may have otherwise left the university. [On top of that], there’s more seventh-semester students who stayed at the dorms than in previous years, so I think it’s just a whole bunch of different things combined.”

According to Porwal, the way these factors came together will surely be taken into careful consideration in the future. “Hopefully by this time next year, all of these things will be leveled out to a point where this does not happen again,” she explained.


The original version of this article misstated the start of the 2016 Introduction Week at Amsterdam University College. The event began on August 29, not on September 29 as first mentioned.

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