“I’d expected the university to have certain standards, but this was unacceptable”

“I’d expected the university to have certain standards, but this was unacceptable”

A room of one’s own

10-01-2023 · Interview

Aurora Desimone (20) from Italy, a second-year bachelor’s student of European Studies, pays 390 euros per month for a 15 m2 room near Emmaplein.

It’s been over six months since Aurora Desimone moved here, in June 2022. She is still very happy with her living situation. It’s a big difference from when she lived in the UM Guesthouse on Annadal Campus during her first year at Maastricht University. “In an 8 m2 room, sharing one kitchen and two bathrooms with 27 students.”

That wasn’t the problem, though. “Everyone has their own routine, so I rarely had to wait to cook or take a shower. And I believe in making do with what you have. I’m the one who had deliberately chosen the cheapest option [375 euros per month, in the ARCL building]. My parents didn’t go to university, so I didn’t want to be too much of a financial burden on them.”

No, her problem was with the lack of cleaning and maintenance. “I’d expected it to meet certain standards – it’s the UM Guesthouse, after all. But it was dirty, even though we paid for cleaning. The toilets, which were used by 27 people, were cleaned once per week at most.” The Guesthouse website claims that the toilets are cleaned five times per week.

Leaking shower

As for the lack of maintenance, “I don’t even know where to start”, says Desimone with a sigh. Take the leaking shower on the floor above hers. “At some point, one of the cleaners quit because they were fed up with having to mop the corridor every morning. When it was finally fixed, we didn’t get a notice that we wouldn’t be able to shower for four days.”

A noisy heat pipe, loud enough to keep her up at night, didn’t get fixed either. “They did assign me another room, probably because they got tired of my emails about it.” During a December storm, a tree branch hit the window of her new room, causing it to crack on the outside. “It still hadn’t been fixed by the time I moved out in May.”

Even though the situation affected her concentration and course results, she didn’t move out straight away. “I’d signed a one-year contract. If I’d ended it early, I would’ve been charged an extra month’s rent as a penalty fee and I would’ve lost my deposit.” But her memories of her stay at the Guesthouse are not all bad. “I formed close friendships with other tenants. Some of them are now my best friends. We just had to get through it together and make the most of the situation.”

Charity shop

Desimone didn’t have a long list of requirements for her new place. “I just wanted to get out of the Guesthouse. Fortunately, my current landlord cares about his tenants – the common rooms are clean and well maintained.” Seven students live in the building; she shares a bathroom and kitchen with two of them.

She also likes the location, close to the city centre. “Cycling is not exactly my thing. I walk everywhere. I only take the bus when I have to go to MECC Maastricht for exams.” The only downside was that the room was unfurnished, unlike her previous room. “I had to go out and buy some furniture. I ended up getting a bed for free and a table for 15 euros on Facebook, and I bought a cabinet at the charity shop for 80 euros.” She would like to make the room feel a bit cosier. “I want to put more photos up on the wall to remind me of home.”

Scandinavia

Does she miss Italy? “I especially miss my mother’s cooking”, she says with a smile. “It’s a cliché, of course, but I am from the countryside, where people live a somewhat more traditional lifestyle than in urban areas. It wasn’t until I moved out that I truly came to understand just how much time and love goes into cooking.” But fortunately, she says, there are a lot of Italian-owned Italian restaurants in Maastricht. “When I feel homesick, I go there to experience the taste and warmth of Italy.”

Even so, she has no plans to move back there quite yet. “The Italian education system is too academic for my taste. I want to develop soft skills as well. They’re important in professional life. That’s why I decided to go to Maastricht; Problem-Based Learning teaches those kinds of skills. And it’s a beautiful city, in the middle of Europe.” For her master’s degree, however, she is considering other countries. “I want to explore as many countries as I can while I’m young. I’d like to study in Scandinavia, for example. I quite like snow and cold. In Italy, I also preferred to spend my summers in the cool mountains rather than on the beach.”

 

In the weekly series 'A room of one's own' Observant interviews students about their rooms, in their rooms. Are you interested to be interviewed for this series? Send a mail to [email protected]

You can read previous interviews in this series here.

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: aroomofone'sown,guesthouse,italy,students,instagram

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