No More “I don’t know” on Euroculture Housing Issue

Eunjin Jeong l eunjin.lynn@gmail.com

Housing is a very important issue for MA Euroculture students because they get to move constantly as part of the curriculum. For some, getting a room in new places has been easy but as most of them admittedly say, they were lucky. The truth of Euroculture housing is here: It can be very difficult and if you are not lucky, you are all on your own. Looking for a room in a foreign country can be a very stressful process especially if you don’t speak the local language. Also, it’s possible that the semester already started and you are without ‘home’, living in a hotel or hostel. I examined the housing situation of Euroculturers, in collaboration with Niccolò Beduschi (Euroculture 12/14) who brought up the issue and ask three questions in an attempt to get more housing support from MA Euroculture Consortium and some universities which are not providing any housing service.

Why don’t we start by looking at ‘very good’ cases?

BILBAO

The University has helped us find a place. You send some necessary documents before a set deadline and one month after you receive information about your place. They send you information of your apartment (address, cost etc) and ask if you’d like to accept the offer. Bilbao is really good in that service.”

KRAKOW

Euroculture Krakow team was really helpful throughout the process. They gave us advices on web pages, kept track of our accommodation status via E-Mail and coordinated semester rooms with Laborooms (kind of dorms from a private company). I am really happy with the “service” of Krakow.”

Question #1. How could Bilbao and Krakow so good at these services when others are not?

And here are some ‘could have been better’ cases.

GRONINGEN

It is possible to find a place “through the university” but only by paying a fee of one month of rent.”

STRASBOURG

You can get student housing, but it is not in a good condition (ok, it’s cheap but that should be the only positive thing!). The application process for the student rooms was easy and worked out well. But you definitely need French in order to get along with everything.”

Question #2. Should we not expect a decent room if we cannot afford a high fee or speak good French?

And here are some ‘could have been a lot better’ cases. The problem not only comes from the lack of support from the university but also the fact that there are too many students looking for a room at the same time. Still, they can do more than just saying “I don’t know.”

UDINE

Most landlords want you to have a contract for a year. Actually, there are many ads from people looking for roommates, but because they all look for people who will stay long, finding a place is very difficult, although if you have time, it’s not impossible.”

UPPSALA

The university at the beginning did not help us find a place until at last we were told that some rooms were reserved for international master students. Many of us got those. However, it’s very hard to get rooms in Uppsala in general.”

GOTTINGEN

Everyone had to search for their own accommodation as far as I know, and we didn’t receive any help from either Euroculture Goettingen team or the university. They just recommend me websites for the private market. You can apply for student dorms, but you get on a waiting list with the average waiting time of 20-24 months. Some people even had to stay in a hotel for a few weeks, even when the semester had already started.”

Question #3. We all know we are adults who need to take care of our own affairs. But what if it’s REALLY DIFFICULT?

This simple poll and possible following comments/debates will be collected and sent, in a month, to the Consortium and each university to show Euroculturers’ opinions on the issue. Many thanks go to Niccolò Beduschi and other Euroculture students for providing the information(quotes) I used to write this article.

Eunjin Jeong, Editor-in-chief

Eunjin is from South Korea and studied Education for her BA. She began MA Euroculture in October 2011 in the University of Göttingen, later studied in the University of Strasbourg, did a research track in Uppsala University and currently finishing her MA thesis in Strasbourg. Her research interests lie in finding ways for diaspora groups to feel as ‘citizens at heart’ in host countries. Eunjin is a part-time realist and a full-time idealist.

I will follow you wherever you go…

We moved to a small Swedish countryside house 60km away from Uppsala since we couldn’t find any other accommodation in the town. One day with -15°C outside, I looked at him sawing a huge branch and thought to myself, ”Oh my, this is too much! A Brazilian who is used to walking around shirtless in havaianas along the Copacabana beach in Rio is now cutting wood in some crazy Swedish frost!”

Līga Līce da Costaligalice@hotmail.com

I met him 6 and a half years ago. On our first encounter I, as Latvians usually do, extended my hand forward and expected him to shake hands with me. Instead, he pulled me close and kissed me on both cheeks, very Brazilian-like. I stood there a little perplexed. I hadn’t expected that at all…

Liga 1Today we are married. It sounds like a fairy tale, right? Well, I had no clue that it would end like this. Now kissing on cheeks with strangers is completely fine with me. I eat rice and beans more often than a regular European, and I dance samba. I got used to it all while living in Rio de Janeiro for a year. Enjoying endless summers, hot beaches, cerveja* and caipirinha** was great, but then came MA Euroculture. Once I got accepted to the programme, we started making plans about moving to Uppsala, Sweden. He had his family, a good job and studies in Rio but yes, he left it all because of me.

One might imagine that it is hard for a carioca*** to live in Uppsala. Going from +40°C to -16°C and not knowing a word of Swedish made it pretty tough to adjust. He got a job at the gym giving jiu-jitsu classes. He also worked in construction – outside! And all so that I could study. It is not a secret that Sweden is expensive and since I was not working, nor had any scholarship, he had to work twice as hard to support both of us. The amount of reading material for the courses was quite significant and I was studying a lot. Often I would have him reread my papers before submitting and sometimes take him to open lectures at the university. I liked to get him involved and to hear his opinion. I took him to our group gatherings where we would bring food from our home countries. He knows what Euroculture is about…

When my first semester finished (and with it our lease), but it was still too early to travel to my host university, we moved to a small Swedish countryside Liga 2house 60km away from Uppsala since we couldn’t find any other accommodation in the town. The house was located in the middle of nowhere, or the middle of the forest, to be more precise. It was literally me and him and the Moon, as we say in Latvia. We are both quite stubborn, but we couldn’t be in a place like this. “Līga”, he told me at the very beginning, “we have to be friends in this place if we want to survive, alright?” The small wooden house was nice and cosy, but meant for summertime only, so every other day we were out in the forest cutting wood for the fire. He had never held an axe in his hands before, but I must admit that he did very well. We also had to bring water from the closest village because the pipes were frozen. On top of that, the bathroom was outside so if one of us wanted to use it in the middle of the night, the other one had to come too, equipped with that same axe. One day with -15°C outside, I looked at him sawing a huge branch and thought to myself, ”Oh my, this is too much! A Brazilian who is used to walking around shirtless in havaianas**** along the Copacabana beach in Rio is now cutting wood in some crazy Swedish frost!” Luckily, the second semester was at the door… And we got married on the last weekend before going to Udine, Italy…

Liga 3Even though I wanted to go to Bilbao, I was accepted to Udine. I was a little upset; however, it worked very well for us since his cousin lived in Venice. So every weekend I would pack up and take the train to Venice to be with my husband. One day he told me: “Look Līga, some couples pay thousands just to be able to spend their honeymoon in Venice and look at us! We have no money, but we are in the most romantic city in the world on our honeymoon!” Indeed. Everything happens as it should! It was very nice having him so close. He was there to support me when I was writing my IP research paper. He was the editor. He also came to see me at the end of the IP conference in Bilbao, Spain. The presentation was behind me and I had just celebrated my birthday, so having him come over was the best present.

Third semester. We were in Vienna, Austria where I was doing my internship. Needless to say that I wouldn’t have been sitting at the computer in the cosy office of the EU Delegation if he had not been sweating in the gym or carrying 40kg cement bags up and down stairs at that time. And I would go home and cook, and I would do it with pleasure because one cannot take things for granted and needs to appreciate the other.

Now I am back in Uppsala. And of course, he’s with me. The thought of being apart from each other is more painful than numb toes in winter boots.

It’s not easy with all this travelling, but one can work things out. Moving along with the other is not always possible, but in our case, thanks to his putting-his-own-life-aside-for-a-while we found it to be the right thing to do. At least a Euroculturer’s spouse’s life is never boring. And we have a deal: once I’m done with school, we switch – I work and he studies.

* beer in Portuguese

** a typical Brazilian cocktail made of lime, sugar, ice and cachaça (liquor made from sugarcane)

*** a person from Rio de Janeiro

**** a Brazilian flip-flop brand

Līga Līce da Costa, Contributing Writer

Liga profileLīga holds a Bachelor’s degree in English/Swedish Philology from the University of Latvia in Riga. She spent her first semester of MA Euroculture in Uppsala, Sweden and the second in Udine, Italy. She did an internship at the EU Delegation to the International Organisations in Vienna and is now back in Uppsala to finish her MA thesis. In the future, Līga would like to pursue a career in international development. In her spare time she likes jogging, swimming, dancing, travelling, and, of course, taking care of her husband.