But as a resident of CPH Studio Hotel from day one, I feel it is necessary to explore the situation at my new home, and perhaps shine a light on how it is to actually live here for the Dorms Disclosed series.
So it was that in the year of our Lord, Steve Jobs, 2015, that a new university halls of residence was to open in Copenhagen. CPH Studio Hotel boasted ''modern, functionalist-inspired architecture''. It promised ''several excellent facilities'', such as a gym, a lounge-area, a ''well-equipped'' laundry room, a common café/kitchen area for breakfast, and later, a restaurant. It told tales of rooms of ''the highest quality''.
What students arrived to on September 2, 2015, was quite different. From 16:00 to 03:00, there were hordes of people outside the building, soaking up free beer and pizza provided as compensation by the staff. There was machinery. There were exposed rooms, possessing neither windows nor walls. There was those steel things that hold up buildings. It was a real mess.
Slowly, but surely, the workmen managed to straighten out the building. It is now less like the abandoned prison of before. At one point, a security guard showed up, making it seem more like an actual, unabandoned prison. But no more.
Now, the long corridors, partially furnished rooms, and spooky, glass roof terrace all contribute to a general feeling that I am on a large naval or cruise ship. I am a sailor. My cabin is one, but there are many. There is no wi-fi on my floor, but they’re working on it. There is a small playpark next door that I didn’t realize was there. Frankly, it is OK.
What’s in a room? Well, as the international student experience of CPH Studio Hotel has clearly demonstrated, it really depends on the room.
Like many others, my room was not ready when I arrived at CPH Studio Hotel. I shared a room for a couple of nights with a good friend of mine - a reasonably enjoyable, if inconvenient, experience that for me was more or less alleviated by the promise of EUR 200 compensation. After that, I was shuttled into various rooms I didn’t stay in, on account of being out too late, and finally I was given my room.
When I was young, I had a shared bedroom with my younger sister. There was a bunkbed. One particular night terror involving sleep paralysis and the ghost of E.T. had, then, long since taught me the perils of sleeping on the top bunk, close to the ceiling, where you’re only one sit-up from faceplanting a plaster stalagtite.
Thus it was so that I signed up to the ‘A’ bed in my shared room - the one on the futon by the window.
Although the windows had no blinds and the sun was in my face all day and night, I luckily had brought a sleepmask along to Denmark from where I had lived before, where it was necessary to cover my eyes from perpetual sunlight. The sleepmask system worked great, until one of the builders accidentally vacuumed it up. He was very worried, but sleepmasks are cheap and Hoovers are powerful. I went and bought another. I still have no blinds.
The bathroom is exceptionally ill-designed. A concrete wetroom housed in an MDF cardboard box, the ventilation system does not really cope with the pretty obvious problem that condensation poses for wood. (Look it up.) The sink is too small for my giant face. The water does not really flow downhill to the drain - it just sits there. However, yesterday’s recent discovery of a SECRET CABINET BEHIND A MIRROR (!) made things much better. Now I feel like Toothpaste James Bond.
After being promised a kitchenette, it was rather underwhelming to discover that, in Denmark, ''kitchenette'' translates to a single, electric hotplate; some pans; a fridge; an MDF frame/desk/thing; and cutlery. I really like to cook, so this isn’t ideal - although we have been promised extra hotplates.
However, it’s not all so bad. After I vacuumed the dust from the room and proceeded to spruce it up with some useless, colourful tat from a popular emporium of plastic nonsense, my room actually began to feel a bit like an actual, real place. For example: I have a rug now. This is unprecedented. A real rug of my very own – and it really does tie the room together. There are many people out there who do not have their very own rugs in their very own building site units, and I feel marginally lucky.
As well as this: the blank, alienating grey expanse of the room is a real canvas for whichever false illusions you may have about how that colour-change LED Buddha statue you bought from Tiger just says so much about you. Make it your own - it isn’t as terrible as it seems.
Verdict: 3/5 – It’s getting better all the time
Okay, so the rooms are austere. There are strange, although pleasant men with machines, who wake you up at odd hours with their reasonably quiet door-knocking. You feel like you’re sneezing a bit more than usual because of the dust. The sun is in your face the whole day and night. Worst of all, you have to live in a building site full of people who have clearly never slept anywhere worse than a building site.
Having said that, let’s look on the bright side. The sun is out, sometimes. LIDL is just around the corner. Living next to the metro station makes you feel geographically relevant. There’s a very pleasant beach nearby. You could be sleeping under a bridge. You could be sleeping on the cold, concrete patio of a cricket ground with a single duvet between 5 of you. You could be 14 years old again. You could be dead.
Sure, we didn’t get what we paid for. When do we ever get what we pay for? Have you ever paid for a holiday? Rented a car from a strange man who demands you just ''leave the cash on the front seat after you’re done''? Have you ever been to a Sting concert? Been to British university? These sorts of terrible rip-offs are the things that bring people together. I’ve seen people giving each other beds for the night, lending them useless thumbtacks, and giving them bed linen. I’ve seen friendships forged in the fire of an unfinished building. I’ve seen things.
Let me tell you, you will never get a refund from Sting - just a cold, hard, toothy smile. CPH Studio Hotel, on the other hand, is a shining beacon of effort and hard work - supremely inadequate and sluggish hard work, but hard work nonetheless. Moaning is not going to speed anything up. I am sure the staff and Housing Foundation people are just as stressed, annoyed, and worried about the construction delays as you are. Have you seen them lately? They look exhausted.
Not the staff's fault
To be honest, the passive-aggressive Facebook comments made by some affected residents, accusing the staff, who are trying to improve the situation as best they can, of everything from wholly deliberate deception, up to and including fraud, illegal contractual violations (with some truth), and being totally evil, demonstrates a clear lack of empathy and understanding with the people who, while having perhaps played a major unintentional role in your mild, short-term discomfort, are the only five or so people who are doing anything to try and help a collection of 300-odd people all with their own individual problems.
Yes, things suck. Everything is terrible. Life is hard. But to quote Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come. And if you haven’t really built it, not yet, they will still come - they’re contractually obliged to. Two months’ rent refund and an added cash bonus might not be enough. Maybe we deserve more, but we forget that, in all the mess, that one bright day, we too might have the ghosts of dead baseball players hitting and pitching in our corridors, up against those glass doors.
Furthermore, you’re having a real experience here, okay? You have an interesting anecdote to tell other people. You have a thing.
''My house isn’t built yet,'' you say. ''I live in a darkened room without curtains. Validate me.''
''Wow, that must suck.''
Read also about how 'UCPH Housing Foundation is cheating on deposits' here.
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