Wanted: a room
There are a couple of standard questions that new students can expect to hear when they say they are going to college. “Oh cool, what are you going to study? Where are you going?” This tends to be quickly followed by the question: “Ach, that's a long way, will you be renting a student room?” In short, there are two possible answers: “You bet. There's no way I'm going back and forth, it takes an hour-and-a-half,” or “No, that's way too expensive.”
Over the past month I have spoken to many first-years about 'getting a student room' and I got a surprising number of pessimistic answers. “No, then I'd have to get a loan,” or “I don't have a supplementary grant.” It set me thinking about the endlessly repeated conversations I had with my parents five years ago when the basic grant was abolished. “Nobody can afford it all anymore,” or “Now studying is only for the rich, like it used to be.” An endless stream of pessimistic thoughts about the financial side of studying.
When I look back now, I can say with certainty that I let myself be drawn into that pessimism. For two years I travelled back and forth by train, a journey of 90 minutes, all the while telling myself “I can cope with the journey time, besides it's saving me money.” Luckily, the moment came when I saw the light and nonetheless decided to move into a room in Eindhoven. I was fed up of having no social life and of having to leave at six-thirty every evening so that I could catch the last bus when I got home.
To put it bluntly, I regret 'delaying getting a student room'. It is difficult to catch up on two years of missed social interaction; even now I still notice that for some activities I'm simply ‘too old’ to ‘fit in’ properly - of course, that's too crazy for words, we are all young adults, but that's how it is.
So the message of this column is this: move into a student room! Do it for all the stereotypical reasons, like it will give your independence a huge boost - there is nothing better for your development than being constantly confronted with the fact that if you want anything organized, you'll have to do it yourself - but also because socialization is a fundamental human necessity. ‘Getting a student room’ works wonders for that.
Exactly the same reasoning applies to why you should join an association. A cultural association, a sports association, a student association ('vo!, as Dutch students cry - short for bravo), a student team, take your pick. It is crap when you realize that actually the only thing your evenings are devoted to is homework, rather than something fun once in a while.
If you're someone like me, who rolls his eyes at arguments like ‘It's good for your development’, here's another argument for free. It's fun living in student rooms. It's fun to join an association and be with a group of likeminded people who you can have fun with.
A room doesn't guarantee all of the above (personal development, social interaction, fun), but it does make achieving these things a whole lot easier. That is worth the money. For the sake of convenience, let's just ignore how long you have to wait to get a room.