College students rush to find accommodation

By Thanh Hang, Manh Tung   February 12, 2022 | 10:45 pm PT
Dinh Tue Tam has been spending about two hours every day with a group of friends scouting for rental houses after learning his school would reopen Feb. 28.

Tam, a sophomore student at Hanoi University of Pharmacy, returned to neighboring Hai Phong Province to celebrate Reunification Day (April 30) and Labor Day (May 1) last year and has remained there since after Covid resurfaced last April, forcing schools across the country to switch to remote learning.

At the time, Tam and his roommate still paid the monthly rent of VND1.7 million ($74.93), hoping the outbreak would quickly subside so he could return to school.

But Tam grew impatient since she has still not received any notice to return to school half a year later.

College students moving in the dormitory of Vietnam National University in HCMC on Feb. 11, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Tung

College students move into the dormitory of Vietnam National University in HCMC on Feb. 11, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Tung

Since she was still in Hai Phong, Tam decided to return her room last November. She didn't want to prolong the payment without knowing when she would return to class.

Her school would resume in-person learning later this month, Tam and five classmates have been searching for a two-bedroom apartment with rent between VND6-7 million a month.

Though they have been looking for accommodation since Lunar New Year, the group have yet to find a suitable spot.

"I missed securing three or four places in a row, so my friends and I plan to return to Hanoi on Feb. 20, then split up to search. We'll deposit right away if we find a suitable spot," Tam explained.

If she is unable to find a place to live before the "deadline" of Feb. 28, she will stay with friends or acquaintances before continuing her search.

The Ministry of Education and Training has strongly called for localities to reopen schools after Lunar New Year.

Pham Quang Hung, head of the Ministry of Education and Training's International Cooperation Department, said reopening schools is inevitable since the vaccine rate is high. In Vietnam, most people aged 12 and above have received two Covid vaccine shots.

All universities and colleges agreed to reopen in February. While some schools have not specified a date, many students are scrambling to find accommodation at present.

Mai Huong, a senior at Hanoi Law University, has been scouting for accommodation even before the Lunar New Year holiday from Jan. 29-Feb. 6. She said since many schools have reopened, her school will eventually do to the same.

She and two friends had rented a mini-apartment for more than VND5 million per month before the fourth Covid wave struck in April last year.

In October last year, Huong returned the house since she couldn't afford to pay the rent on her own after a friend found other accommodation while the other graduated.

The student from northern Quang Ninh Province is looking for a room for around VND3-3.5 million and wants to share the cost with another friend.

"My friend will return to Hanoi in the next few days. So I will ask her friend to search, check the room in person and make a deposit as soon as possible," Huong said.

When Vietnam was fighting its most challenging Covid wave, Tam, Huong and many college students returned their rented rooms to go home.

Ha Trong Hieu, 35, the owner of nearly 300 rental rooms, stated that in the last few months of last year, the rate of students checking out reached up to 80 percent.

Now, after most universities announced the resumption of in-person learning, he receives 50-60 inquiries a day.

"Students are primarily looking for accommodation for 2-3 people with rent around VND2-3.5 million per month," Hieu said.

He revealed that this is his first time seeing a surge in rental demand in February during his six years in the lodging industry.

A neighborhood with accomodation of VND1-1.5 million for students near the National University, HCMCs Thu Duc City. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Tung

Houses for rent near the National University, HCMC's Thu Duc City. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Tung

In the days following Lunar New Year, there have been hundreds of inquiries on many student accommodation groups online with students searching for suitable accommodation near their schools.

Students usually find housing from one of three sources: blocks of rented accommodation near schools, houses of acquaintances, and dormitories.

Recognizing student needs, many schools reserve a space on their official sites to connect students with landlords and innkeepers, attracting 1,000 comments in a matter of days.

Not just in Hanoi, millions of students in Ho Chi Minh City plan to look for housing when returning to the city as many schools have announced they would reopen this month.

Currently, all schools have teams that assist students in finding housing in dorms or hostels.

Hoang Thi Thoa, deputy director of the Center for Admissions and Student Support at HCMC's University of Food Industry said: "After Tet, there is a high demand for student housing, and dormitories are nearly full. The school has compiled a list of good and inexpensive rooms for students to check out."

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