“I remember it was in mid-1999 when we finally got a computer at home. It was exciting, even though I had some experience using one at a friend’s place and at school.

It was a Pentium II 330Mhz, 32 MB ram, with a 4GB hard disk – top of the line at the time, if I may say so, although of course today I use a cell phone probably four times as fast with twice as much storage capacity, which is a fact that never ceases to amuse me.

Being a teenager at that time, the main priority was computer gaming, an interest I hardly find time to practice now, but back then it was an all-consuming obsession. I spent countless hours playing racing games, like Need for Speed, flight simulators and the inescapable first-person shooters, like Max Payne, to mention but a few. In the middle of all this gaming frenzy, I did manage to notice that the computer came with a little box called a modem, which allowed me to connect to something called the internet. A place where one could find a range of subjects, some useful and some which just made one wonder why was it even there! Braving on to explore this new world, like most other internet newbies, the first and most important rite of passage was creating an email account with good old hotmail, thereby becoming virtually existent!

As time passed, the internet evolved to its current proportions and so did my point of view on the existence of computers, shifting from mostly entertainment to more serious stuff like studies, assignments and even a bit of coding. Nowadays, internet has become my primary source for everything. Work-wise, a great website is cfdonline, where people interested in computational fluid dynamics can discuss and help each other through online forums and various other resources. Websites like gives me all the news I need about my favorite sport, while I find most relevant news from back home at Of course, for occasional entertainment, I enjoy websites such as miniclip for free online gaming, and of course dependable youtube for videos and music. In their current form, computers and the internet have become such highly indispensable tools in daily life that they should almost be considered as one of the basic necessities of life.” 

My favorites:

Historical monuments, picture perfect canals, countless bikes and, if lucky, a hot, late summer sun welcomes  thousands of international students to the Netherlands and TU Delft every August, and every year around that time the articles also start appearing in Delta and other publications reporting on student housing shortages in Delft and elsewhere around the country. 

Student housing in Holland is problematic on many levels. Most, if not all, of TU Delft’s international students live in accommodations arranged by the university in partnership with Duwo, the housing corporation. As international student numbers increase annually, it becomes increasingly difficult for these students to find, on their own, accommodation that is ‘acceptable’ in terms of rent, facilities and proximity to university. 

In a city plagued by affordable student housing shortages, the good part of the current system is that the university guarantees accommodation to incoming international students on arrival. The bad part is that students have little or not choice options: it’s basically take it or leave it, but if you leave it you’ll encounter a plethora of bureaucratic problems encountered by students who don’t have ‘official’ accommodation, ranging from difficulties registering at gemeente Delft to obtaining or extending residence permits. 

Life as a student is not without its ironies, in which the very advantages provided by the system can turn out to offer its own disadvantages. 

When international students sign a housing contract with Duwo, this ensures that visa and residence permit procedures run smoothly. On the flip side, though, students who haven’t yet seen their accommodation do not know that they’re being given, what many come to view as sub-standard, overpriced accommodations. So, the system that is meant to make things easier for international students ends up disappointing them, and at the receiving end of their complaints about the lack of choice are the university and Duwo.

Little over a semester into the academic year, a quick survey reveals student opinions remain polarized regarding the ‘quality’ of Duwo housing provided to them. “I didn’t choose to live in Poptahof, because Duwo didn’t give me any other option,” says Francesco Visco, an Italian architecture student who says his accommodation is riddled with problems, including poor internet connection, an unhygienic entranceway to his house and a burglary at Poptahof. 

Even the optimistic Ajith Sriram Sridharan, an aerospace student from India, seems to agree with Visco’s complaints about shabby maintenance. But unlike Visco, Sridharan chose to live in Poptahof rather than Roland Holstlaan, as he believes that sharing his house with other students from different cultures enriches his TU Delft experience. 

Having lived in three different housing complexes since 2009, Sumit Sachdeva, an Applied Sciences student from India, feels Marcushof is a more spacious, less expensive accommodation. Although he doesn’t mind sharing the facilities with 20 other people, Sachdeva’s major complaint against Duwo is that Duwo seems to treat Dutch and international students differently: “International students are given housing by a separate section of the housing agency, called Short-stay Housing Duwo, which offers expensive houses compared to normal Duwo housing costs.”

In studying in a foreign country, TU Delft international students want close interactions with local students to enrich their TU experience. “I do feel there’s a strong separation between Dutch and international students,” says Nico Zahn, an industrial design student from Germany. 

“However, the quality of housing is very bad from my personal experience, whether Dutch or International. 

Roland Holstlaan buildings are old and need extensive renovation and housing needs to move to campus rather than being outside the campus.”

Zahn thinks it’s important for the university and Duwo to house MSc students with fellow MSc students and avoid segregation in all other respects, such as nationality, while providing environments in which one can meet other people. He believes “student housing is unique and should not follow normal conventions”, giving as an example the Pixar Animation Studios’ campus buildings, where people automatically meet others when shopping or having cups of coffee. Zahn believes that private housing companies, like Duwo, have no interest – nor any competition – to compel them to think differently, and that only universities can allow themselves to think of creative housing alternatives.

A few international students, like Devin Malone, an American, industrial ecology MSc student, managed to get a place in the Balthasar van der Polweg, which is a Dutch student dominated area. Malone doesn’t think there is segregation, but rather the lack of common areas hinders any social interaction and integration with his neighbors. 

Chetan Kaanadka Shivarama, an Indian industrial design graduate who lives in the predominately Dutch neighborhood of Korvezeestraat, found himself lucky to get a place through an instemming – the process by which the current residents of a student house vote in new tenants after an evening of socialising.

“The university could perhaps take a leaf out of the German book when it comes to housing disparities,” suggests Chetan, noting that international students in Aachen and Stuttgart live alongside their fellow German students, with little difference in housing quality or rental fees. 

Many international students said the need for a common area for social interaction was an important issue. Roland Holstlaan lacks a common area, and the Space Boxes only have a small room that must be pre-booked to be used for any kind of recreational activities. 

Jayakrishnan Harikrishnan, a SET student from India, points out the need for a common recreation area where the students can relax, watch TV or play some games. “Although the space boxes’ location on campus is advantageous for the students living there, during holidays and weekends it can become a very lonely place bereft of any stimulating activities.”

Most of the international students surveyed for this article said they felt that international student housing was overpriced. Although most students love the international cultural experience, the author was amused when a fellow Dutch student commented that most international students lived ‘outside Delft’, by which he meant that the real Delft student activity lies somewhere else: international student housing in faraway Poptahof, or Roland Holstlaan and the space boxes are well outside the city centre, where the real Delft student life lives and where most Dutch students live. 

Editor Redactie

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