Housing diaries (2)

‘The person on the video call was AI-generated’

housing diary internationals: Vittoria. Foto: DUB
The Italian student Vittoria, who struggled to find a room. Photos: DUB

April 2023

I am happy to have been admitted to the Master’s in European Law in Utrecht. Even though UU wasn’t my first choice, I am proud of myself for being able to enter such a prestigious and internationally oriented university. I know I have to find a place to stay, but I’m not really focusing on that at the moment because I still have exams to pass and I am writing my thesis.

May 2023

No SSH room
I am not the only one in my class who is going to UU, so we asked a teacher if he could start an exam half an hour later so that we could be online when SSH rooms would be put up for rent on their website. Unfortunately, I failed to get one but one of my friends made it. That’s when I realised that finding a room in Utrecht wouldn’t be easy for me.

The first thing I did was join Facebook groups because that’s how I found a room both in Italy and in Ireland, where I did an Erasmus exchange. Like many other students, I’ve come across a lot of scammers but I was able to recognise most of them straight away.

Let me tell you about the ones that didn’t get me suspicious instantly. One person contacted me via e-mail after I’d posted my address on one of the groups. She sent me several pictures of a room and I put them on Google Lens, a programme that allows you to verify where images are from. I discovered that the photos were actually of a hotel room in Milan, which was a funny coincidence. I blocked her, of course.

Another funny story was about a guy who claimed to work for a housing agency. We arranged for a video call, so he could show me the room. However, once he turned his camera on, not only did he make some excuse for not being able to show me the room but I also realised that his image was AI-generated. His lips did not match what he was saying!

After that, I gave up Facebook. It was too much trouble.

June 2023

I subscribed to Kamernet at the beginning of the month and I’ve lost count of how many messages I’ve sent. I switched on notifications so I would know about new listings straight away but no one has answered me so far. I am not stressed out, though, because I’m not an anxious person. Besides, I am busy leaving my student home in Italy and moving back in with my parents. The only one who seems anxious is my grandma, who asks me about it almost every day: ‘Have you found a house yet?’

July 2023

More time
I’ve passed all of my exams. Now, the only thing left to do is finish my thesis. This means I have more time to dedicate to my search for a room in Utrecht. In addition to replying to ads on Kamernet, I am back on student housing websites such as Canvas. I subscribed to their waiting list.

August 2023

Wasted vacation
I went to Sicily on vacation on August 1. Unfortunately, I could barely enjoy my holidays because I spent a lot of time on my laptop, looking for a room in Utrecht. I didn’t get a room through Canvas, so I started to get really nervous.

housing diary internationals: Vittoria. Foto: DUB

Found a roommate
I managed to be the first person to contact a Spanish girl who asked on the Goin’ app if someone wanted to share a house with her. She told me that she’s renting a studio but she would like to share it with somebody else because the rent is too high. It costs 900 euros a month so, if we were to share it, it would cost 450 euros each. The studio is only furnished for one person but, if I pay 450 a month, I will have enough money left to buy my own bed and divide the room with curtains or something like that. I am happy. It looks like I’ve finally found a solution.

The girl stopped answering me all of a sudden. She disappeared for days on end. I sent her several messages but she just didn’t reply. Needless to say, I am extremely stressed out now. To make matters worse, I discovered that my grandma is sick. Oh, and I still have to finish my thesis.

I’ve decided to focus my search on Canvas because a friend of mine, who is going to pursue the same Master’s as me at UU, found her place via Canvas and she keeps on saying: “Don’t worry, you can do it too!” Every Wednesday, me and my family sit around the table with our computers and we start refreshing Canvas’ website at 10:00 am. It’s not working, though.

Bye-bye, Kamernet?
I considered cancelling my Kamernet subscription because it hasn’t helped me at all so far and it’s not exactly cheap (it costs 34 euros per month, Ed.). But, at the same time, I’m so nervous about not having a room yet that I decided to keep it for a bit longer.

A couch to crash on
A friend of mine lives in Eindhoven and she said that I could stay at her place until I find a room. That makes me breathe a sigh of relief: at least I will have a roof over my head, although I do want to find a place of my own in Utrecht as soon as possible. I want to live the full Utrecht experience and my Master’s only lasts one year!

September 2023

Potential place
Two days before I was supposed to move to the Netherlands, I replied to an ad on Kamernet, and the landlord messaged me back immediately. He is Italian and his family is half-Italian, half-Dutch. He said he would be happy to host an Italian student in his house. It’s a 20-square-metre studio that shares the entrance with his family’s home in Zeist. The studio is independent, only the entrance is the same. Technically, it’s in their house but it is an autonomous space, with its own bathroom and kitchen. The garden is shared with the family. The house looks really good and the location is perfect, right next to the student housing complex from SSH, where a couple of friends of mine will live. The rent is 700 euros, plus expenses.

It's a yes!
I arrived in the Netherlands yesterday and the first thing I did was visit the apartment. I was the first of three candidates to view it. The landlord, his wife and one of his children showed me around, they are a really nice family. The landlord said he would let me know by the same night if I got the studio or not, so I went back to Eindhoven feeling pretty nervous.

A few hours later, he called and informed me that I’d been chosen. Yay! I did it! I can move in on October 7, which means I’ll have to travel between Eindhoven and Utrecht three times a week for a little while still, but at least that’s not going to last long. I will only stay in my friend’s place for a couple of weeks, as I have to go back to Italy in the meantime to attend my graduation ceremony.