- Midway through the semester, the Student Hotel rebranded itself to The Social Hub. I assume it was to keep the acronym TSH, which is all over their brand, but I refuse to call it the weird, vague name of “The Social Hub,” so I kept referring to it as The Student Hotel. What even is a hub? Living at TSH West is living at a hotel in every way, not an apartment, not even a dorm.
- When I first arrived, I was surprised. I walked into my room on the fourth floor of Rail House to a nice full bed with manicured white sheets, two huge sunny windows, a desk and shelving, and a plain magenta poster above the bed that said, “Everybody should like Everybody.” It didn’t look at all like the photos I’d seen, but after taking down the brand poster, hanging up my own photos, unpacking a few of my clothes into the shelves, the room grew on me. The bathroom was equipped with hand and bath towels and a rug, the shower looked shiny and new. I was mostly relieved for the private bathroom, after having to share a bathroom with three other people all of last semester.
- I was a little less enthusiastic about the shared kitchen. Eleven people in my hallway, all using the same kitchen. The fridge and freezer have shelves divided up and labeled by room number; the same for the small-ish cabinet space underneath the counter. There was a water boiler, a drying rack, plenty of pots, frying pans, baking pans, stacks of plates and bowls and silverware, spatulas, ladles, knives, almost everything you’d need. Since there weren’t any containers, I purchased some Tupperware from Hema, which was helpful for meal prep and leftovers. Sharing a kitchen is one thing about the Student Hotel that I won’t miss. For me, having to share with that many people always brings to light the different ways in which people were raised to clean up after themselves. In my case, on the fourth floor, there was hardly ever a time where the sink wasn’t filled with dirty dishes, or the dishwasher broken, or the counter stained, or the floor sticky, or trash cans overflowing, or something leaking in the fridge. There came a point in time when I didn't have the energy or motivation to clean every dish in the sink, so I bought my own set of plates and bowls and silverware so I could stay responsible for just my own property. I ended up spending more time in my friends’ kitchens than my own.
- Private bathrooms are great until there’s mold. There was a black mold outbreak in the beginning of the semester in almost everyone’s bathroom, it seemed. One of my friends had to call maintenance several times for all of the mold at the bottom of her shower to be completely removed. I only had a couple dark gray spots in my shower, but it was noticeable enough against the white porcelain for me to cringe every time I showered. Another of my friends was convinced that her eye infection was caused by exposure to the black mold. “Black mold in the shower” was a topic of conversation for the first two weeks until the staff at TSH finally pulled it together and maintenance put preventative tape into all of the showers.
- With the mold gone, showering was easier, but then I ran into the issue of bad drainage. I brought it up to my friends and of course, it was a recurring problem in their rooms too. I couldn’t take a nice, relaxing, enjoyable shower because the water didn’t drain fast enough; five minutes in and the water would be up to my ankles, threatening to overflow the little edge of the bottom of the shower. After my shower didn’t drain for one full day, I brought it up to the front desk. They added me to a list and the next day, like a miracle, everything was drained and, fortunately, kept draining.
- I wish this were the end of TSH grievances my friends and I had this semester, but unfortunately it isn’t. I’ll add here some of the good things about TSH West, which include the reasons why I plan on staying here in Star House for spring semester. First, West is the cheaper option of the two TSH locations. When you account for the distance between TSH West and city center and UvA, you could make the argument that paying an extra thousand dollars for a closer location isn’t that bad. I’ll admit that Ubers back home after going out can get pricey, though not terrible if you’re in a group. Ultimately, I think that TSH West makes up for it with its ideal placement right next to a tram stop, a metro station, and a bus stop. The Jan van Galenstraat station is only two stops away from the Sloterdijk train station, a common stop for most trains, and two stops away from Lelylaan, which has an easy transfer to the Intercity to Schiphol. It’s in a predominantly migrant neighborhood, meaning plenty of excellent Moroccan and Turkish food, groceries, and bakeries. The hotel is within walking and biking distance of Sloterplas, the huge man-made lake that is great for biking, walking, reading, and, in warmer weather, swimming. Around the corner is also Rembrandt Park, which has a petting zoo, and Erasmus Park. There is a Dirk grocery store at Mercatorplein, which is only a few stops on the tram. One stop further is an Albert Heijn, and along the way plenty of Kruidvats and Etos for everyday drug store needs. Past the roundabout near the hospital is Lidl, another cheap grocery store, and yet another Albert Heijn. Hema is just a fifteen minute walk away, at Bos en Lommer. Right across the street, there is a row of easy take-out food, including wok, poke, and cheesy fries, and a super convenient convenience store called Food Lovers right on the corner. There is free laundry (though only six washing machines and six dryers for hundreds of people) and a slightly more pricey but available laundromat around the corner. Below the lobby, there is a dimly lit library and quiet study room ideal for midterms and final season.
- To top off the complaints of mold, bad shower drainage, and poor kitchen conditions, the number one complaint most people united behind was the fact that staff members and cleaning crew could access our rooms at any time of the day. Our rooms were cleaned once a month, so obviously the cleaning staff had a masterkey. But quickly everyone learned that the TSH staff could get into our rooms at any time, and they did. One of my friends was still in bed when a cleaning lady knocked on the door once and burst in without waiting for a reply. Another of my friends is convinced that one of the maintenance workers used her bathroom while he was fixing her shower. Someone else had items stolen from them during cleaning. One day when I came home, one of the maintenance men had left a roll of tape on my bathroom counter and tracked dirt on my rug. When the TSH rebrand was happening, new posters were being hung up everywhere. Evidently, it was necessary for “The Social Hub” posters to be hung up in our rooms too, which meant that staff members came into our rooms during the day when we were out, stepped on our beds, and pinned the ridiculous posters onto the board above our beds only for everyone to immediately take them down. That was the final straw for a lot of people, and I’m not entirely sure whether or not it got rightfully sorted out. In any case, TSH responded to our complaints by giving everyone (by way of entering our rooms unsolicited again) a plastic bin to put valuables during cleaning.
- To end on a better note, TSH West feels on the outskirts of the city, but really, the hotel is centrally located in a part of the city you wouldn’t normally see unless you lived here. Being out of the city center means you’re required to learn how to navigate the metro and tram, you get to see more of the neighborhoods between Nieuw West and the city center. And for me personally, I liked having my “home” not be anywhere near campus. At Sarah Lawrence, I was constantly going back and forth between my dorm and classes; it felt like all I did was wake up, walk five minutes and be on campus, then after class go straight back up to my dorm. Taking the twenty minute commute from TSH to Uva was a pain sometimes, but I was ultimately grateful for it. The distance between the heart of Amsterdam and my humble hotel room made it possible for me to experience and see more every day, which I’m ultimately thankful for.
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My name is Emma Basco and I am originally from Sacramento, California. I am currently studying literature and writing at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. I love to read on the beach, doodle on post it notes, paint with watercolors, and unearth new cafes and restaurants. My hidden talent is that I can make an excellent pot of noodles from packaged ramen.