To our new international students
'Later, when you go study abroad, you will be living in a tent!' Such a promise would make any child's heart beat faster. Obviously young, nomadic wizkids-to-be might just shrug this off, but to most 'internationals' the tent holds an exciting promise.
NL: Dit is een Engelse vertaling van de column van afgelopen zaterdag, om zo ook de doelgroep - internationale studenten - aan te spreken.
ENG: This is a translated version of the column published saturday. We've decided to translate and republish this column for international students in Groningen, or for students looking to Groningen as their next study city.
Unfortunately, the love for camping decreases as we grow older. This is of course mainly the fault of well-meaning parents, who drag their offspring to equally well-meaning and equally boring campgrounds without WiFi, and with only a pile of moldy comic-books. Equipped with a 30-year-old, incredibly complicated, Dutch De Waard-tent with 78 pegs and 25 lines, that takes mom and dad six hours of quarreling to set up and then only with the front-porch facing backwards. And then, if you have to sleep in this tent, on an air mattress next to a brother who is snoring like a manatee, and during the day have to make educationally justified forest hikes in the drizzle only to be faced with a one-pan dish of mashed putty in the evening, in the dim light of an oil lamp, then you start to hate tents and everything that goes with it.
By the time you're eighteen, you can't stand tents anymore.
Tents represent the extent to which you endure the proximity of your family. No longer the naked intimacy of your baby years, but not yet the walls, with the occasional window or door, that you pull up between you and your parents once you have detached yourself from them. Tent cloth is something in between. Camping trips are the last convulsion of a family before it disintegrates into separate economic units.
Those separate economic units come from all over the world to study here in Groningen.
Naturally, you, 'internationals', do not find a room as easily as the local boys and girls, because scarcity is high, and the housing market is far from transparent. You are immediately confronted with brutal market failures like imperfect competition and imperfect information; market failures you will soon be able to study more in-depth at our business schools.
With a bit of luck some will find a sad room for a thousand euros per month, some of you can stay for a while with a staff member of the university, or with a Samaritan Groninger with a spare room or you can 'couch surf' at fellow students' places. And those of you who cannot find anything, will have to stay for a while in these much-discussed university tents or an expensive hotel boat.
Within six months you'll all have a room. For now, we may find it very sad for you and consider this tent scandal bad PR for the university. But rest assured that you will later, like the Four Yorkshireman by Monty Python ('we lived in a shoebox'), brag about the dramatic circumstances in which you started. 'I live in a penthouse now, but when I started at Groningen University, I had to live in a tent for months!' 'In a tent? Lucky bastard! I slept on the couch at the dean's house. Every morning I had to leave at six o'clock, without even a cup of tea.' 'Slept? Could you sleep? Luxury! I had to stand up all night in the broom closet at the Faculty of Theology for four months. It cost me two thousand euros a month.' 'But at least you had a roof ... I spent three months floating around in the Groningen canals, in a leaky rowboat, with all my study books.' And then, in unison: 'But how happy we were in those days!'
Willem van Reijendam
Any luck finding a house here? If you want to share your experience with us, please mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org