In Thessaloniki, opinions range from ‘satisfied’ to ‘far from happy’

About 400 students this year will be among the lucky ones to find a place in the five student halls of residence in Thessaloniki. The halls, three of which are just a stone’s throw away from Aristotle University, have in total 1,720 beds in single rooms. This number is unable to meet the housing needs of 100,000 students (92,500 in undergraduate courses and 9,000 in postgraduate studies in 42 departments) at the largest university in the country, with students entitled to stay at the student hall for the duration of their degree plus two years. In small or large rooms, single or double, 79 percent of the rooms at the student halls accommodate freshmen students, 10 percent students of other years, 1 percent postgraduate students, 1 percent students from single-parent families and 1 percent Greek students from abroad who take special entrance exams. The remaining 8 percent of the rooms are designated for foreign students. The five student dormitories receive about 600 applications a year, four of the halls are for Aristotle University students and the fifth, in Kalamaria, is solely for students at Macedonia University. Distance Places in the Aristotle University halls are virtually impossible to get, whereas in Kalamaria Hall there are always spare beds. The reason for this is distance, as the university campus is far from the student hall «with the result that before the exams are over in September, there are already 40 places available, even though the living conditions are better,» Director Hariklia Pitsouli explained. It is also one of the newest halls; the single rooms with a bathroom are spacious and the apartments have a living room and built-in kitchen. «For the first two years, I rented an apartment but the expenses were too high. I managed to get a room in my third year and I’m much better off,» said Theodoros Kringas from Larissa, who is studying economics. Moreover, «in the dorms students have company and daily contact. This is one of the positive things about the unusual cohabitation,» added his neighbor, chemistry student Makis Adam from Lamia. Both students, lodged in the same wing of the first Thessaloniki student hall – the oldest, operating since 1963 – are happy to get one of the 419 rooms, cells measuring 2×3 square meters in the eight-story building with shared toilets and showers. There is also a library, computer room, cinema and refectory where all lodgers at the dormitories take their meals. Over the last few years, refurbishment has progressed gradually and has reduced the problems accumulated over decades due to the age of the buildings. The building has been connected to the natural gas network, which has increased the provision of hot water and heating. The overwhelming majority of the students consider the main problem to be the cleanliness of the shared facilities, as three toilets and the same number of showers cater to 20 rooms. Since the plumbing is old, it often breaks down despite frequent repairs. «The cleanliness of the toilets is a permanent problem, the students themselves do not apply cleanliness principles,» admitted Olga Papadimitriou and Isidoros Talaboukas, students in the teacher training and agricultural faculties housed in the third Thessaloniki student hall. Uncontrolled entry to all dorms is a decision made by the students themselves, who have refused checks on visitors. Policing is not accepted as it infringes upon university asylum. Private security They argue that so far there has been no problem and believe private security from 10 p.m. till 7 a.m. is sufficient. Some isolated cases of drug users entering the building to use the toilets to take drugs were handled without problems according to both the students and the director of the first student hall, Ms Zota. The other two neighboring student halls have the same design inside and outside with small rooms and common use areas: The second hall has 459 beds in single rooms without a balcony and the third hall has 350 rooms. The fourth student hall of Thessaloniki University used to be a hotel: It is smaller (270 beds in 140 double rooms with bathroom) and is being refurbished gradually. Garbage out windows There are always complaints among the small communities of young Greeks and foreigners. Some students are satisfied, such as German Edith Papanikolaou and Swiss Mariake Hamel, but others are far from happy and list numerous problems. There are also complaints from the management: «The students do not even pay the token rent of 4.40 euros, they do not keep the common use areas clean, and so on. Some students throw garbage from the windows,» said employees at the second student hall, whose grounds often resemble a dump.