News - August 30, 2007

Opinion/ Mixed student flats or not?

If Wageningen student accommodation office Idealis gets its way, only non-Dutch students will be housed in the Bornsesteeg apartment building in future. This way an extra 150 rooms will be made free for the international students. This will also mean that mixed corridors in other flats with a quarter or more international students won't have to take any more foreigners, says Idealis. Good idea?

Marca Gresnigt, ex-chair of Bornsesteeg for SFO
‘The Bornsesteeg tenants got a letter about the changes. Those of us in the SFO (Student Flat tenants’ organisation, ed.) had heard something, but we didn’t know the plans were already so advanced. I think it’s a bad development for the people who live in the Bornsesteeg. More and more foreigners are coming here to study, but if you house them all together student life on the corridors will suffer. In the Bornsesteeg corridor life is already quite limited as most people keep themselves to themselves. At the moment there’s just enough contact to keep corridor affairs going: it was already difficult enough to find corridor representatives, but with the new policy it’ll be almost impossible. The Dutch students still living here will move out more quickly and perhaps that’s Idealis’ intention. But every day there are still international students who need help because they have difficulties making themselves understood at the supermarket or post office. Who’s going to translate letters for them or explain how the washing machine works? New students especially need help finding their way around. And don’t forget Borney’s (pub in the basement of Bornsesteeg, ed.) will also suffer. Lots of people are involved, and most jobs do get done, but for the committee you really need a couple of Dutch students, especially for the post and communication.’

Lucero Oyarzún, lives on a mixed corridor in the Haarweg
‘As far as I’m concerned it makes no sense at all putting international students together in one apartment building. I think it’s terrible that people come here to study and don’t speak the language, and are then isolated in this way. You’ll never get integration if you do that will you? It’s really antisocial, especially such an international university, lumping all foreigners together. I read in Resource that foreign and Dutch students don’t mix much, so surely things would improve if they lived together? There are twelve of us here, including four foreigners and two half-Dutch people. We communicate in English, which is no big deal. What I like is all the different music I get to hear, and we play games like poker and Settlers of Catan. I notice that we eat together less often than we would if there were only Dutch students – that’s because everyone has their own daily rhythm. Sometimes there are people who are less involved, but that’s more down to the person than the nationality.
There was a Portuguese girl who used to live here, and during the World Cup she exchanged a Dutch flag for a Portuguese one: after that we watched the matches together.’

Claudia Schoester, lives on a mixed corridor in the Bornsesteeg
‘It’s not such a bad idea. At the moment two out of the eleven rooms are occupied by Dutch students. That’s not so exceptional as most of the time it’s three, sometimes four. I’m corridor representative now and I notice that the foreign students usually pay their bills quicker than the Dutch students. But it’ll be a problem trying to find someone to take over my job, as most people don’t live here for very long. In the last year the turnover has been pretty high. Now there’s just a small group of three to four long-term residents. There’s not so much feeling of being able to rely on each other. It’s not ideal, but you get used to it. Mind you, I don’t think I’ll last much longer here. I expect I’ll move out within two years. It’s just like a hotel here. If I remember correctly, we got a letter from Idealis only a year ago apologising because really sixty percent of the occupants should have been Dutch. Nothing has changed since we got the letter.’

Wietse Dekker, lives in Asserpark
‘A quarter of our corridor comes from abroad, and I have no problem with that. It’s good fun: if we have a party everyone joins in, and we often eat together as well. I should add that I find it easy to make friends, but that’s also thanks to the international students themselves. There’s a girl from China and a guy from Kenya here. There are no problems with them either, for example about using the kitchen, and I think the Chinese girl probably cleans it the best of all of us. They’ve already been here a while and that makes a difference. I think they’ve been here two years or longer. That gives you a chance to build up a friendship. Our corridor is a close group, including the foreigners.’

Ebenezer Lamptey, from Ghana, lives on an international corridor in the Bornsesteeg A-wing
‘You know, it’s important for us that we have a good room with good facilities, and preferably not too expensive. It is expensive here, but I have no complaints about the rooms. We don’t need more: we’ve come here to study and the minute we’ve finished, we’ll go home. It’s as simple as that. I’ve got a month to go, and then I’ll have finished my course at Larenstein.
I’ve been living here for about a year. I’m not sure, but I think there are a few Dutch students as well. I don’t talk to them. Everyone who lives here is very busy, but we do greet each other in the shared areas. I’ve never been into someone else’s room and nobody has ever been into my room. But there aren’t any problems. Some friends of mine who live in the Asserpark flat have complained of conflicts with Dutch students about cleaning and using the kitchen, but that’s not the case here. Here everyone keeps themselves to themselves.’
/ Richard Esser and Nicolette Meerstadt

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