Riis couldn’t find a room and now he lives at a campsite in Groesbeek

01 Oct 2021

Riis Kaak lives in a trailer tent on a campsite. The student from North Holland can’t find a room. Luckily, it is dry in the awning, ‘but that’s not what I had in mind when I decided to move to Nijmegen.’

The knife goes back and forth, the green folding table wiggles. Riis Kaak (21) is cutting cucumber for his dinner: chicken tandoori á la Riis. ‘I’m cooking for three days,’ he says. A black coat hangs around his torso and he’s wearing flipflops with socks.

Kaak currently has an internship at the orthopaedic department at the Radboudumc. He studies BioMedical Engineering in Delft. Finding a room appeared to be a big problem for the resident of far-away Nieuw-Vennep (North Holland). ‘I’ve tried everything. I’ve searched on the internet, called landlords, signed up for SSH& but nothing helped.’

‘It’s not as bad as it looks’

Sometimes, he did get invited for viewings. But then there were ten other fun candidates or he didn’t meet the requirements. The start of his internship in September came closer and closer. ‘I was joking: should I go camping in Nijmegen? Eventually, that became reality.’

According to a survey done by Vox, dozens of students within the area of Nijmegen are forced to stay at hotels and campsites. There were five students who stayed at campsite De But in the forests of Groesbeek for a long time. Next to Kaak, a Finnish student was sleeping in a hammock. The boy had hung up a tarp as cover for the rain. It didn’t help. ‘When I came here, I kept hearing coughing and puffing next to me. I think he caught a cold from sleeping outside.’

Meanwhile, the Finnish student has found a place to stay, just like an Italian student who stayed in a tent. Three students are left: a Dutch first-year in a trailer, a German student who sleeps in his car, and Kaak in his parents’ trailer tent.

‘Who can say that their first room was a trailer tent?’

‘The stay here is not as bad as it looks’, he says excitedly while he cuts up carrots. ‘I can do my own thing, nobody’s in my way. The weather hasn’t bothered me as much up until now, even with heavy rain it stays dry inside. And who can say that their first room was a trailer tent?’

But on a more serious note: ‘It is of course not what you expect. This is not what I had in mind when I decided to move to Nijmegen.’

Owner of the campsite is Nelly Brouwer from Groesbeek. She regularly drives across the terrain with a golf car to chat with ‘her’ students. ‘Such a nice boy,’ she says about Kaak a little later. ‘I like helping students. They’re fun to be around and cheerful. I’ve never had problems with them.’

But if she could choose, she’d prefer to see no students on the campsite. ‘It’s horrible that so many of them can’t find a room. They should do something about that, like accepting fewer international students.’ She worries sometimes for their safety as well. ‘The Italian student had to cycle back through the dark forest on her own, that didn’t sit well with me, even though the chance that something might happen is quite small.’

Trailer tent
Back in the trailer tent, Kaak has started cutting up mushrooms. He’s allowed to stay here until the 31st of October, then the campsite will close for the winter. That means that he has to find a different solution for the last month of his internship.

His plan is to partly work from home and partly commute during November. The travel time is five hours a day. ‘Not doable actually, but it is what it is,’ he says. And his last month on the campsite? Down-to-earth: ‘I’ll get through it.’

Anyone who knows of a room for Riis Kaak can send a mail to [email protected]

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