Hang in there: my journey to home, sweet home in Utrecht

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As an international student, my problems are not different from other students. But the biggest problem for me was finding a place to call my own, which seems to be a problem for everyone.

I want to talk about my experience with housing during my first year. Now, as a third-year student, I can look back and laugh about my journey. However, many students still struggle.

An unsafe space can affect your grades, socialization and mental health. It is important to have a place to relax, reflect on your days and study. For my first six months of studying, I was not able to hold any of my responsibilities together because I did not feel comfortable in any of the places I was living. I moved house four times in six months, and only registered twice.

First house
The first house was owned by two Dutch guys. They were renting a single-person bedroom to me and a Geek girl whom I had met online. I slept in a normal bed, and she slept on a mattress since there was no space for an extra bed. We had nothing but a closet. I was forced to study on my bed or at the dining table surrounded by noise from the other roommates. Additionally, there were many unknown guests that often stayed the night without permission. They made us feel uncomfortable or would go through our stuff and eat our food.

Things escalated when my Greek roommate decided to bring her boyfriend to stay with us, without much discussion ahead. We all slept in the living room. The situation was deteriorating, and the Dutch guys were pretty fed up. Thankfully, the couple found another house and soon moved out, taking me with them.

Second house
What that meant for me? Sleeping on an inflatable mattress in the kitchen, while they watched movies the whole night and cooked until late, often setting the fire alarm off and waking me up with a mild heart attack, followed up by a stream of creative curse words.

There were also many fights and jealousy between the couple and they often put me at the center of it. I was once asked to leave the house to not to be alone with the boyfriend. That’s where I drew the line.

Third house
The third house was in a strange area, in the northern part of Zeist. It was at the eleventh floor and it had no furniture. I slept in a bed of which the wooden planks underneath would fall every time I sat on it harder. I didn’t have a lamp in my room, so I studied with my flashlight. I was not registered and I was paying more than I should. I would take the bus, every day, at 7am and go home late at night after work because it was too expensive to ride it many times. I didn’t have a desk or a table to study, neither Internet to use. Lastly, I was many times awoken by loud neighbors or screams, and of course… rats.

There are so many other things I could say about these houses, but my point is: keep trying until you find a suitable space. Oftentimes, all I wanted was to drop out and go home. However, it was just a few bad months that have now been replaced by many beautiful moments. Things will not always be easy, but what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.