“Most of the occupants study in Eindhoven”

“Most of the occupants study in Eindhoven”

Looking for UM students in a student complex in Sittard

23-11-2022 · Reportage

In an attempt to prevent new room shortages, Maastricht University is setting its sights more often on ‘the region’. What does student life look like there? Also, are travelling expenses affordable? Observant took a look in a brand-new student complex in Sittard. The striking conclusion: the rooms seem popular in particular among students from ‘faraway’ Eindhoven.

This summer, 120 student studios were created in the former DSM office in Sittard, now renamed PITground. Another hundred will be added in the coming months. “Nicely complementing the available living space for students in Maastricht,” Maastricht University said in a news item on its website last July. UM students were said to be the main target group for these studios.

Still, on a random Friday afternoon, remarkably few of them can be found around the building, which is a couple of minutes’ walk from Sittard Station. Even though the intercity train from Maastricht has just arrived, it appears that the students trudging along to PITground are mainly from the train coming from the opposite direction, Eindhoven. A little further along, in front of the entrance of the building, there are only students from TU Eindhoven too. A coincidence? The students present don’t think so. “I would say that the majority of the occupants here study at TU,” one of them states.

A phone call to Holland2Stay, who rents out the accommodations on behalf of PITground, confirms that idea. “Indeed, there are more students from Eindhoven here than from Maastricht or Sittard”, regional manager Matt Flipse informs us. He can’t give exact figures; the company doesn’t keep tally. “We definitely focus on UM students. But possibly students from Eindhoven respond more quickly when we publish available studios on our website. Holland2Stay is actually from Eindhoven, so we are quite well-known there.”

Undesirable competition

The letting agent states that occupants do not need to meet any requirements as to where they study. “We have not made any arrangements on that point,” replies Maurice Evers, head of Maastricht Housing. Unlike what the news item on the UM website suggests, the university is not directly involved in PITground. “Although UM did support the project, for example, by discussing the issue with the Sittard municipality. But for the rooms, it is first come, first served.”

By way of explanation for the large number of TU Eindhoven students, Evers points out the tremendous shortage of rooms in Eindhoven. “It is a known fact that the new employees of the high-tech company ASML constitute stiff competition for the students. Both groups are fishing in the same pond.” Still, he is “somewhat surprised” that the students venture as far as Sittard for housing. After all, whereas the train journey for UM students is fifteen minutes, the journey for students from Eindhoven takes a good three quarters of an hour.

Does the competition from Eindhoven pose a problem for UM students? “Thanks to the six hundred extra units in Randwyck (the so-called ‘container accommodation’, ed.) and the limited growth of the student population, there is now a sufficient number of rooms. How this will develop in the future, is difficult to predict. If TU Eindhoven students were to also move to Maastricht, that would cause undesirable competition, although most likely very little could be done about this.”

Expensive travelling

Back to PITground, where the mission to speak to a UM-student living in Sittard is finally successful: Isaiah Smith, first-year student of European Studies from the US, saunters by. He lives here together with his girlfriend, who also studies in Maastricht. “So, that is at least two UM students,” he laughs. “I think there are also a number of Maastricht master’s students living here, but I have very little contact with other occupants, to be honest.”

Because of the shortage of rooms in Maastricht, he focused on places such as Sittard and Heerlen. “I don’t understand why other students are not doing that too. I prefer living here, it is much quieter than in Maastricht. And yes, you are further away from ‘real’ student life, but personally I don’t miss it: I already experienced that when I studied elsewhere.” The only disadvantage that Smith mentions is travel expenses – as a non-EU student, he is not eligible for a student travel pass. “Travelling by train is more expensive than initially expected: roughly 150 euro per month, whereas we thought it would be 50 euro. Maybe a reason to move to Maastricht next year, although we would really like to stay here.”

Illustration: Simone Golob

Tags: sittard,student housing,room shortage,eindhoven,students

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