A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
As my fellow Leideners have pointed out several times before, finding decent housing can be quite difficult in Leiden. However, it doesn’t always have to be. I was incredibly lucky, and I am very much aware of that, to find an almost perfect room on just my first try with kamernet.nl. Now that I’ve lived here for almost 3,5 years, I’ve seen my fair share of housemates come and go, and been through the process of voting in new people several times. Many international students struggle with the Dutch student housing system, which is actually incredibly difficult for foreigners, especially if you want to get a room the same way a Dutch student would do it.
If you’re staying for more than a year, for example your entire BA, then a great alternative to the international student housing offered by the university is to go online, and look for a room in one of the Dutch studenthouses. It could not only provide you with a more permanent place to stay, but living in a real “Studentenhuis”, might also add to the experience of studying in Holland. The problem with this is, that the chances for international students actually getting one of those rooms, are incredibly slim. So here are a few tips, and a quick guide to the system.
The most popular website for student housing is without a doubt www.kamernet.nl (also available in English). Most websites are free, but do charge a fee once you’re actually replying to rooms, Kamernet charges from 20 up to 36 euros, for three months of sending an unlimited number of replies.
If you reply to a room, there are a few things to put in your message that can help you get an invitation to the hospiteeravond (more about that below).
Hospiteeravonden are not ideal for international students, because they require you to be in the country. I am aware of that. But if you can, for example if you’re studying somewhere in Europe, try to book a trip to Leiden for a few days, and cram as many hospiteeravonden or other appointments for checking out a room in that week as possible. What exactly is this “hospiteeravond” I am talking about?
Fairly unique to Holland, this is how a new housemate is usually picked. It may not be the most ideal, but it’s efficient, especially considering busy schedules and impatient landlords. When you reply to a room, you can get invited to a “Hospiteeravond”, which is probably best described as a form of speed dating. Sometimes they consist of multiple rounds, depending on the number of people invited (we’ve had anywhere from two to twenty people). We usually have everyone introduce themselves, and then make sure to speak to everyone one on one, or at least in small groups, then after about two hours, we say goodbye to the potential new housemates and try to decide who we want to live with. The biggest criticism about this system, apart from the fact that you need to be in the country for this, is often that it’s hard to make a good and realistic first impression. Candidates are nervous, tend to be a bit shy when meeting new people and find it hard to get themselves heard in a group. From my own experiences though, we often prefer to pick the person who may be a bit quiet at first, and might open up more once they get to know us, than the one who is already very loud and extrovert. Here are a few tips to get you through the confusing concept of a hospiteeravond.
If this, nor the University housing is working for you, but you really need a roof above your head and a place to sleep, try one of the agencies like Buro Hogeland and Vijf Sterren Leiden. They can be a bit expensive, and you run the risk of not having any idea who you’re going to live with, but once you have a room, you can start looking for a better one without all of the stress.
For some of you, a few of these tips may be redundant. If you have any other questions about housing in Leiden however, don’t be afraid to comment here, on Facebook or on Twitter! Good luck 🙂