When Roman Tarassenko, an AAU student from Kazakhstan, was getting out of the shower at the Botic Student House dorm where he lived, its door suddenly collapsed in his hands. When he contacted the building manager for compensation over his bleeding legs, he was instead forced to pay for the broken door.
AAU doesn’t have dorms of its own and provides minimum housing help to foreign students beyond real estate agencies with sometimes expensive or faraway accommodations. Those with more limited budgets often find situations in other schools’ dorms as Tarassenko did.
During the annual breakfast with the President Alan Kraustengl announced that AAU is negotiating about opening a dormitory for its students soon. Former Student Servises Center (SSC) manager Irena Valesova adds, “This unlikely to happen the nearest future.” Thus, students still have to find accomodation themselves.
SSC usually deals with visa problems and student loans. Many students wonder why they can’t help with housing too. The reason, according to Center officials, is Czech law. It requires a contract between the landlord and the person who stays in a building, not their representative. Legally, a student over 18 also can’t be represented by an entity such as AAU, they say.
Irena Valesova admits that it is much easier to deal with student visas than with housing. AAU allows some real estate agencies to promote their services on campus but admits that students get no discounts from using them.
AAU provides a list of agencies with student-orientated accommodations and a number of websites helping with housing. But if someone has problems with an agency not from the list, they have to deal with it on their own, says SSC registration specialist Josef Bartik.
Realtors offer options that often turn out to be too expensive: 55 Student Room & Flat offers a single room for about 10,000 Kc per month. Others are far: Apartman Student has a dormitory near Chodov metro station, a 40-minute ride from the AAU.
One of the most popular sites, www.myflatshare.cz, has a wide range of prices and locations and students can chose from eight languages while searching.
Once settled, students hesitate to move fearing legal troubles or penalties.
He was told that breaking his rental contract would cost him about 18,000 Kc but he eventually negotiated it down to 6,000 Kc. He moved out as soon as possible and lived with friends for the rest of the semester.
AAU journalism student Valeria had to stay in a friend’s apartment for about a month while she struggled finding a room for herself.
Students don’t tend to report if their rights have been violated either, fearing the expense, time and lack of expertise on what to do about it in the Czech Republic.
Tarassenko says living in AAU housing would be a good option if it differs from usual Czech dormitories, which are often poorly furnished or run-down. He would also appreciate a gym and public spaces for socializing.
Some students complain that AAU’s lack of involvement in housing places it behind other universities – many provide dormitories or an option to stay with a family.
As Tarassenko sees it, something important is being neglected. “No one protected me,” he says.
Cover Photo by Peter Alfred Hess (Flickr CC)