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Int’l students in Europe face accommodation worries due to pandemic

International students across Europe are facing unprecedented problems with their accommodation and some even fear homelessness because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey and student advocacy leaders. 

International students in Europe are stuck in accommodation contracts even when they have returned home because of coronavirus. Photo: Pexels

40% of accommodation providers are allowing students that returned home to cancel their contract

Accommodation providers and landlords in many countries are demanding that students continue to pay their rent as per their contracts, even if they have returned home, or if they can no longer work because of lockdowns. 

It’s a terrible situation…it’s destroying students’ whole experience

The scale of the issue has been revealed in a survey by The Class of 2020, which shows that 40% of accommodation providers are allowing students that returned home to cancel their contract, while the remaining 60% are keeping students in their contracts, with some offering rent discounts.

Conducted in March, the survey was taken by 38 organisations who are the key players in the student accommodation industry, including the leading operators, investors, suppliers, associations and universities across Europe.

Of the respondents who took part, 24% stated they are providing a rent-free period and 17% are providing discounts. 

The severity of the situation for international students studying in Europe often depends on whether they are receiving funding. 

For those who have remained in their host countries, university dormitories have been evacuated, leading to initial fears that some students would be made homeless.

While this issue is currently being resolved by some universities who are providing students with alternative temporary accommodation such as rooms in hotels, institutions are facing logistical challenges. 

It’s a terrible situation,” said Gohar Hovhannisyan, vice-president of The European Students’ Union

Our national student unions are trying to reach out to their local authorities, to institutions and to landlords but this doesn’t necessarily help. 

“It’s destroying students’ whole experience… It creates a lot of negative feelings and this will be very, very hard to recover from. The international dimension of education will find it hard to recover.”

Hovhannisyan explained that many students are unable to pay rent because they have lost jobs due to lockdowns and because they have no social security support. 

“The only thing now that can be done to support students is for the government to call upon the landlords and accommodation providers to be more supportive,” she added. 

Hovhannisyan explained that international students in Europe on the Erasmus program who have had to go home will retain their funding in cases where landlords require them to keep paying their rent, meaning that they won’t have to pay out of their own pocket. 

However, those who are funding their own studies are in a more precarious position, she added.

“In most of the countries, there is no general regulation… so it’s very much upon the individuals to negotiate it and come up with a solution.

“The role of the agencies or institutions who have organised international study experiences for students is crucial. They need to realise that they have a certain responsibility of supporting students to solve this situation,” she added.

Hovhannisyan also called on the governments of  European countries to come up with support mechanisms that will help the students to pay their rents and sustain themselves until the lockdown is over.

But international students who have stayed in their host countries are also facing problems.

Kostis Giannidis, president of the Erasmus Student Network, explained that universities are having to find new accommodation for students after dormitories were evacuated.

“The universities are trying to find alternatives to make sure that the students are not made homeless”

“The universities are trying to find alternatives to make sure that the students are not made homeless, he told The PIE.

So for example, some universities have moved their international students into hotels or they have provided accommodation in other places.

“There is a logistical challenge here because if there are many students in the same place it dangerous for their health and so on,” he said. 

The ESN has conducted a survey on the matter, which is due for release in the coming weeks. According to Giannidis, the survey has had 23,000 responses.

He told The PIE that 5% – around 1,150 – of the students stated their accommodation was cancelled by accommodation providers.

“This also causes a distraction and impacts the academic performance of the students, if they have to move from one place to the other.

Let’s not forget that they are still continuing with their academic studies online,” Giannidis added.

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5 Responses to Int’l students in Europe face accommodation worries due to pandemic

  1. Indeed, this has become a serious problem for some of living abroad pursuing our studies, the landlords are not showing any kind understanding with regards to this pandemic the whole world is going through. Like in Cyprus, the landlords are incharge of everything like light and water rates,we pay to them and unfortunate part they always collect bills from students more than what one used or may use a month.

  2. Government should please fund our house rent as international students and extend our stay by atleast 2years and hold our school fees payment for now.

  3. As a international student we are facing accomodation problems. In this pandemic situation we have discussed with our landlord. That we are losing the job it is impossible to pay the rent as our family is also going through this difficult situation. But, he was very rude with us. Not even in a situation to listen us and he forced us to pay the rent based on contract. Instead of considering this situation throughout the world he is behaving very abruptly

  4. As an international student stuck in these situations, I can say that it is an unpredictable problem, I pray that God will give us the strength to overcome this.
    But in camplus where I live in Venice the management is still asking for the rent without giving us time to adapt on payment not just me But other international student are going the same issues and are scared to talk about it the management of camplus santa Marta, threatening to send me out, I have no one to explain to anymore because I don’t speak Italian,
    My country is Nigeria currently on lockdown leaving me with no option on how to get funds for even feeding, if I have to write a letter to the prime minister or someone in charge I will please, someone should comes to our aid (international students) are also suffering in these hard situations.

  5. Good that u are throwing light on this crucial issue. Accommodation providers need to be more accommodative in supporting international students and have equal responsibility as that of the host governments

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