Hello from the Netherlands

An introduction of myself, eh? My name is Joey Hwong, and I’m currently a super senior at Foster, studying in Rotterdam, The Netherlands for winter quarter. It took quite a lot of effort to get me here, so I thought sharing this experience would be most interesting as a late introduction of myself.

After I received my acceptance letter in spring 2008, I promptly submitted all of the required documents, including the housing request form to stadswonen (the company that handles all student accommodations). I didn’t hear back until…probably late September or October, with notification that I hadn’t submitted “anything” at all. After a couple follow-up emails, I realized my only option was to resubmit. This late into the game, I was left with but one option over 7 km from school and in a “shadier area of town.” (My buddy’s words, not mine.) It was also quite pricey. After several more emails with stadswonen/Foster Exchanges/my parents/my buddy concerning the safety of this location, the practicality of going to school, it was decided that I would need them to find me alternative housing, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to go. In the meantime, throughout this discussion, instead of working with me to provide a solution, stadswonen contacted me and canceled their housing proposal because I had exceeded their 24 hours window for acceptance.

I spent a good week seeking all possible alternatives and finally found a girl on facebook who was studying abroad to Vancouver, BC for her winter trimester. Worked out well, it was 2/3 of the rent stadswonen wanted to charge and only 2 km from school. And she’s lent me her bicycle to use, which saves me a bit of money in transportation/bike acquisition costs.

Following, there was another fiasco involving the contract and deposit, since I was going on vacation, and so was she. I couldn’t wire money from my bank account in the States. But that’s less interesting, so I’ll skip those parts.

So, a week or two ago, there was a welcome dinner, and I spent the evening talking to a gentleman who was serving as the photographer for the evening. Turns out he’s part of the weekly magazine the university puts out and I’m not the only person whose had the worst experiences with stadswonen. I’ll be in a small segment (with photo) sometime next week in their magazine. The magazine is doing an expose on stadswonen and the fact the university outsources the housing to them.

At the moment, I’m currently enjoying my flat, conveniently located next to a grocery store, trams, metros, and the usage of my bicycle. It makes me feel less like I’m “studying abroad” here and more like I’m trying to immerse myself into the culture, which is nice.

That’s all for now.