‘They are not only students, that surprised me too. Regular Groningers also participate. Even in surrounding villages people want to help, some for a few nights, others even for as long as two months.’ Koen Marée (24) is somewhat startled by the positive reactions and the results. The Democratic Academy Groningen (DAG) initiative has generated as many as fifty addresses for couchsurfing. DAG, with two representitives in the Groningen University Council, has made an inventory of Groningen citizens who have a spare bed, couch or mattress available for student from abroad who haven’t found a room in Groningen yet. How many roomless students the city counts, is not clear, but it might be dozens, because the number of international students that enrolled at the two city universities (University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences) is at a peak.
The emergency facilities in Groningen are not what you may call a warm welcome
‘The university puts a lot of money into the recruitment of international students’, Koen says, ‘but then they let it down a bit. With the Hanze it will not be much different. Doing so they run the risk of prospective students walking around homeless. We think that is irresponsible. That is why we roll up our sleeves.’
Next week will be crucial, Koen thinks. ‘Most internationals will arrive this weekend. We can accommodate around fifty people, and that number will grow slightly, I think.’ The rest of the international students have to rely on the emergency facilities that the University of Groningen, the Hanze and the municipality have jointly set up. Koen: ‘The facilitations themselves are okay, of course. But students have to pay twelve euros for an overnight stay in a tent. That’s not what you may call a warm welcome. Twelve euros, that’s just as much as the rent of a proper room. We have protested against it. We think that the University of Groningen should invest less in the recruitment of students and more in proper shelters, which they should offer for free.’
International students in need of a place to stay can send an email.