Student - August 26, 2010

Crowded hotel

Foreign students are stoical about their accommodation at the Hof van Wageningen Hotel. Luxurious though? They wouldn’t go that far. But:‘hey, it’s only temporary.’

Shared hotel room in Hotel 'Hof van Wageningen'
The Brink residence on the Stadsbrink in Wageningen does not look like a real hotel. The rooms are decent but basic. A Chinese student walks to his bed with a course handbook under his arm and comes straight back into the corridor with his laptop. He is probably trying to pick up wireless internet. It is available here, but not on a scale designed to cater for large groups.
In recent years this annex of the Hof van Wageningen Hotel has catered not for high-end tourists but for long-term guests and asylum seekers who came under the general amnesty. Over the coming months 170 foreign students will be staying here, and 130 more will occupy converted offices at the hotel's main building. These 300 places will not be enough to go round and Van Hall Larenstein's foreign students will be put up at a holiday park in Hoenderloo.
Dark curtains
Every room at the Brink residence contains three to five beds, a shower and toilet and a small bureau that the occupants have to share. The 'bedrooms' are roughly demarcated with wooden partitions and dark curtains. Haoron Yang from south-east China is standing in the corner of the shared room. It is his first time outside China, but Haoron is satisfied with his new abode. 'Quiet city', he says. The room will do, but he is quick to add with a smile that 'on 1 September I can move to a real student house.'
Out in the corridor is Frank Nonhebel, the coordinator for this accommodation. His phone goes every couple of minutes and in between calls he answers students' questions. 'Yes, the town council is still open, you still have an hour.' Nonhebel's usual profession is as travel agent, but four years ago the university asked him to help solve the pressing accommodation problems. 'So now I am a sort of landlord. I check whether rooms are kept clean, that sort of thing.' He thinks up the allocation of rooms on the spot. 'You have to bear in mind who will combine well with who. To avoid language problems I try to put nationalities together as far as possible. It is not a simple matter. There are lots of Chinese on the list, for example, but that country is so vast that they do not necessarily speak the same language.'
One Czech
And indeed, all Haoron's roommates are Chinese. Except one, that is: Jan Duchoslav from the Czech republic. Duchoslav: 'Annoying? No, I've already made friends here and hey, it's only temporary. I do hope I can move into one of the flats soon though.' He is astonished to hear that the rightwing PVV party has asked questions in parliament about this sort of 'luxury accommodation' for foreign students. His answer, with a deep frown, is to glance around his new room and say, 'Just look at this.'

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