Students wanting a room in Wageningen usually register with Idealis or attend selection dinners in student houses. But third-year student of Business and Consumer Science Anne van der Heijden took a very different approach. When her parents left for America in September 2013, her childhood home turned into a student house.
‘I was in my final year of High School and I had no idea what I wanted to do at university. Although I had always said I didn’t want to stay in Wageningen, my mother mentioned the degree in Business and Consumer Science. ‘A bit of economics, a bit of psychology, a bit of sociology and some statistics. Right up your street!’
Meanwhile my father was offered a job with a big company in America. He was working at Wageningen UR but my parents had been considering moving abroad for some time. Now the timing was right because my brother had moved to Rotterdam and I was about to go to university. What’s more, I could then stay in the house.
I thought that would be lovely but lonely unless I could find some roommates. So we made plans to divide the living room with plaster partitions so there was room for seven people in the house. We transformed the basement into a common room with a TV, a bar and sofas. That’s funny of course. The basement was always the playroom, with a Lego castle, a garage and a broken Baby Born. All that’s left now is a cupboard full of glitter and craft materials, opposite the bar made of beer crates.
Sleeping in the basement
I put the house on kamernet.nl but I had never heard of hospiteren [dinners for groups of applicants for rooms so house residents can select new roommates, ed.] I invited everyone for a one-to-one chat and took one hour per person. Over four days I had dozens of people visiting. I gave them all a guided tour and assessed whether I would like to share the house with them. It didn’t always go smoothly. Some students were pretty arrogant, just assuming I would love to live with them. And to start with I wanted only vegetarians in the house, but the people I liked best were not vegetarians. Then I had to choose between picking the people I liked best or having an all-vegetarian household. I went for the first options.
It was quite a challenge to start with. The partitions had not been put up yet and because my parents hadn’t found a house in America yet they were here sometimes and their stuff was still here too. So during the AID we all slept in the basement. That was interesting: a group of hungover students living in a house with parents and a dog, and with removal workers busy packing around them.
Mowing the lawn
But the real work started in September of course, when my parents left for America. They I began to realize how much work a house is. Ringing the plumber, mowing the lawn, pruning, and clearing the gutters. All details that your parents usually see to.
For a student house we are terribly respectable and domestic. We regularly eat together and everyone shares the responsibility for looking after the house. We really set up this student house together and my housemates are now my best friends. But now and then I look at the plaster partitions and remember how it used to look, with a nice sofa, beautiful art on the walls and my lovely piano. And then I do get a bit nostalgic.’