A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
If you’re an avid follower of our blog, you know that this topic has been brought up several times. In fact, we talk about it almost every time a semester starts.
Finding an ideal place to live, or finding a place to live at all, in Leiden is an excruciating process – at some point I even think that it is more difficult than getting accepted into the university itself. But it will certainly become something you are going to miss when you leave Leiden, because to me it feels like a sort of “ritual” that everyone has to go through in order to become a true Leidener. 😛
That said, as my time in Leiden is going to end soon, I would like to offer my 3 cents to help future students weigh up all the options available for your house-hunting venture in Leiden!
1. SEA – Housing
If you know nothing about the Netherlands and Leiden, this will be the most immediate and reliable source of help. The 350 EUR fee may seem daunting to some, but in all seriousness I would rather pay that amount to be free from all the anxiety and stress. Nonetheless, there’s one thing that you should consider. If you receive your decision long enough before the housing application deadline, go for it. Even if you’re still unsure about enrolling, just send in the application, you will be refunded if you don’t come to Leiden eventually. I had to wait for my scholarship result so I only applied for housing after the official deadline, so I ended up receiving an offer for a place in The Hague, which I had to decline in the end. I couldn’t grasp how serious the first-come-first-serve policy at first, so now I figure out that you will have to apply for housing as soon as possible in order to have a higher chance of getting the place of your choice.
Another tip is that even if it does not end up well with SEA Housing, don’t be sad that you will lose 350 EUR. You can use that for your housing application in the next semester, which is more optimistic because that means you will be quite on top of the waiting line. I got my 350 EUR refunded at the end because I was lucky enough to find a place by myself in my second semester.
This option is an intimidating one. Come to think of it I never worked with a housing agency before and given the fact that I would have to work with them through the Internet, the risk is much higher. But it turned out quite smooth actually. After hearing from SEA Housing, I was so desperate that I went to this page in hopes of finding a place in Leiden. The agencies always have more options for you than the student housing office. I quickly found a room that seemed okay, so I contacted the agency and after a couple of emails back and forth I managed to rent it! They sent me a sort of pre-contract and after I paid the first month’s rent and broker’s fee, my room is secured. It’s a bit scary to wire a big amount of money to someone you haven’t met yet, but I heard that any kind of agreement, even spoken ones, is considered legal in the Netherlands. I’m still not sure about this, anyhow it made me less worried 😛
The amount I paid to the agency was actually almost the same with the fees I have to pay to the housing office, so I would say this is definitely an option. It may even be your best bet if you team up with some other friends and rent a whole apartment together. However, in peak season (fall semester), it is very likely that even the agencies will shake their heads, so be fast!
3. Leiden Housing Facebook page
This is the worst and the best option. Worst for prospective students and best for those who are already in Leiden. Most Leiden students will post here if they are looking for someone to takeover their contracts or to sub-rent their places. Often you don’t have to pay any broker’s fee, and the rooms are all nice because the people are all victors of the house-hunting adventure 😛 That said, once a post is up, everyone jumps at it. Like everyone. You will be amazed at how fast the room/apartment is gone. So even if you try to stare at the page and refresh again and again, the fact that you are not physically in Leiden to meet the renters (and sometimes not even in the same time zone!) already decreases your chances. BUT, once you’re here and plan to move to a better place, it will be much more hopeful! I managed to find the best place available (bragging here a little bit hehe) through this Facebook page after 4 months being in Leiden!
So these are just my opinions only. But bottom line is, don’t be too picky at the beginning, be flexible. I would really advice everyone to just settle in a place first, even if it is not something you like or it is a bit more expensive than your budget. It’s more important to have a shelter, because I have seen many students coming here without knowing where to stay in advance and it’s quite terrifying. And don’t lose hope! Things will get much easier once you settle in Leiden 🙂