A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
It can be daunting to move to a new country, especially if you’re planning on finding your own place. In 2014 I moved from Abu Dhabi to The Hague. It was a rushed move, so I decided to take my chances at finding an apartment online while I was still in Abu Dhabi rather than being homeless in The Hague on arrival.
I arrived in The Hague on a rainy afternoon in mid-August. Once I got off the train from Schipol Airport I went straight to a real estate agency I had used to rent my apartment. I received an email from them a few days before and everything was said to be in order. I was proud of how organized I was and how smoothly my move was going. Until the agent said there was a French woman squatting in my apartment.
Alright, I suppose she wasn’t technically squatting since she was the previous, lawful tenant. The thing is, she decided she wasn’t prepared to move just yet and sunk her claws into the apartment. “Why didn’t you tell me the apartment isn’t ready yet?” I inquired. “This whole situation is very unprecedented,” the agent would respond. Tired from the trip and unwilling to fight either the agent or the squatter I accepted a temporary apartment from the agency. It turned out to be rather cute.
A week later I became the squatter since the actual tenants of my temporary apartment had arrived. I was then moved to yet another flat – this one was huge! That would become my home for half a month until my actual apartment was finally vacated.
Moving is never a smooth process and there are always bumps along the way. So it’s important to remember a few things about finding your own place:
That apartment online may look gorgeous, but who knows when those photos were taken? Rooms will look bigger and cleaner than they are, appliances may be missing – any number of things could be different in the actual apartment. The listing may also be a scam. This is a major downside to not viewing the place in person before renting.
A real estate agent can help you with the apartment search, which is helpful if you’re not currently in the country. They can also be very accommodating towards international students and answer any questions you may have about living in Holland. On the other hand, you risk being taken advantage of and you may end up paying for this service and an apartment for more than they’re worth.
It’s a good idea to get to Holland at least a week beforehand (though you’ll always meet people who arrived a few hours before class started or even a few days after). This way you’ll have time to adjust and find a place, which will only be stressful if you also have to focus on your new coursework once the semester starts.
It’s always great to have someone supporting you, so try to bring friends or family along for the apartment search. It’s common for a family member to accompany international students when they first move to a new country. Otherwise, bring any friends you have for a second opinion and moral support!
Of course, it will all work out in the end (it did for me, 3 apartments later). Search thoroughly and trust your instincts. Good luck!