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Foto: Marleen Hoebe

Sleep deprivation in crowded gym during Intreeweek: ‘Last night was extreme’

Wessel Wierda,
1 september 2023 - 16:11

What is it like to sleep in a gym with hundreds of new UvA students? Folia spoke to four people with experience. ‘People are still turning up at 6:00 in the morning.’ Then the first alarm clocks go off.

Not every (international) student is sure to find a place to sleep in Amsterdam or its surroundings just before the start of their studies. To provide UvA students a roof over their heads during Intreeweek in any case, the Intree organization has been offering an alternative for years, at a reduced rate.


For just €52 (early bird price) or €62 (standard), students without a room or place to sleep can spend a week in one of the gymnasiums of the USC Sports Center, the so-called Universum building. Breakfast included. ‘We want to create the most pleasant place possible for USC sleepers with the opportunities and resources we have,’ said the Intreeweek organization.


It's definitely better than nothing. That much is certain. But after touring the Universum building, something else also becomes painfully clear on Wednesday morning: A high probability of sleep deprivation is also included in the price.

Foto: Sara Kerklaan
Andu Zwanenburg

Storing and re-inflating air mattresses

Most have had a short night after a long day of introductory activities. Take Andu Zwanenburg (22, English Language and Culture), who is in the rain on her way to the bus leaving from Science Park. So far, she finds the sleeping experience at USC ‘not great.’ She slept fine the first night, ‘but last night was extreme.’ There are several reasons for this.


Because the gymnasiums are used by athletes during the day, most people have to put their sleeping gear back in storage in the morning. So the following day, all air mattresses must be re-inflated. That must be done at night because students are not allowed to enter the Universum building until after 11:00 p.m. to go to sleep. ‘That was very noisy,’ says Andu.


The fact that the lights didn't go out until around 2:00 a.m. last night didn't help them fall asleep either, says prospective UvA student Louis de Vetter (18, mathematics). Students don't know exactly when the lights go out, so it's hard to adjust accordingly. ‘It varies from night to night,’ says De Vetter. ‘That's what I find so interesting. It's very irregular.’

Foto: Sara Kerklaan
Louis de Vetter


On top of that, not everyone gets all their sleeping gear out of the storage room before midnight to pump up their mattress, among other things. There are many parties scheduled at night during Intreeweek, and student associations also open their doors to bring in new members. Shuttle buses after Intree events allow students to get back to the USC Sports Building. Most didn't come in until ‘very late,’ Andu indicated.


‘I still heard people coming in until 6:00 in the morning,’ said De Vetter, who now intends to go for a run, something he enjoys doing. Still unfamiliar with the layout of Amsterdam, on Monday he walked


from Koninklijk Theater Carré back to the Science Park, without using navigation. He said it took him about 40 minutes.

Foto: Sara Kerklaan

Hard floor

De Vetter has the advantage of being a deep sleeper, he says, which is why he did not hear anyone come in during the night. Nevertheless, he still woke up a few times. Andu was (even) less fortunate. She was right in front of a noisy group of latecomers in the dormitory, which kept her awake for a long time. ‘Other incoming guests were more respectful and quieter, by the way,’ she adds.


Another common criticism from the students we spoke to was the hard gym floor. American Francesco (19, Political Science) is an experienced camper but would ‘never recommend’ sleeping in a gym. ‘It's difficult to sleep on the floor. It makes my shoulder hurt.’ Soon he will be sleeping in a hostel as an emergency measure for several weeks, hoping to then find a room in (the vicinity of) Amsterdam. ‘That's going to be a luxury,’ he says, ‘after sleeping on the floor.’

Foto: Sara Kerklaan
Carlinde van de Kamer

Shared locker room showers

The floor was also one of the most important reasons that Carlinde van de Kamer (18, Psychobiology) was not looking forward to spending the night in the gym. But fate smiled on her: She was offered a chance to sleep at a friend's house that night. She immediately opted for that over a night of crashing in the gym, she says, despite having already paid for it.


‘It was much more comfortable, with a nice bed.’ She also took a shower this morning, so she doesn't have to use the communal locker room showers at USC today - as found in other gyms.


But now she really has to go in. She stands in front of the Universum building, loaded up with sleeping gear, ready to step inside. ‘It's cozier, I guess. But I don't feel like being woken up early every morning. At 9:00 a.m. you have to get up and by 10:00 a.m. your stuff has to be out of the dorm. Most alarm clocks go off earlier, though.’


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