‘Never heard of it’, says 21-year-old Spanish Psychology student Irene Subirats Alvarado. ‘You haven’t?’ Puzzled, she replies: ‘Why? Should I?’
The same applies to 20-year-old Business Administration student Ninke Dijkstra, although she’s lived in Groningen for the past three years. While Dutch students have wild and dramatic parties in Vindicat and Albertus, we have our own little secret: Winscho. If you’ve never heard of Winschoterdiep, let alone been there, it’s time to put that right!
The student house has over 300 residents, most of whom are only there on an exchange basis. In addition to being the largest international student house in Groningen, it also has a reputation for being a lot of fun, very noisy and, to put it mildly, a ‘sexually-liberated zone’.
Communications student Sanau Brenda, from Kenya, has only one word to describe it: dirty. She makes a face when she says it and turns away. Winscho can be dirty in more ways than one and now you’re about to find out why.
‘It’s a brothel’
Last October a Winscho resident created an account on Facebook under an alias and didn’t stop until he had 130 friends, scaring everyone with statements like “Tonight I could be anyone. I’ll be watching you all.”
‘It’s a brothel’, a former resident claims. The 23-year-old Indonesian girl has lived in Groningen for over two years and is arguably the closest international students here have to a socialite. Unabashed, Olvah Veron adds: ‘It was 24-hour, non-stop sex. I was woken up in the middle of night sometimes because my neighbours were making so much noise.’
She pauses and then estimates: ‘75% were involved in one-night stands, 20% were fuck buddies and the rest ended up in relationships.’ She smiles.
Fights could ensue and some people would avoid whole sections of the building for fear of running into their exes. Olvah, a former IBM student, gives an example: ‘A girl liked a guy, but he played with her emotions. Eventually, she fucked his best friend. When the guy found out, they beat each other up.’
However, former student manager Stephanie Berghuis notes that although there are problems, she has never experienced any herself. The 25-year-old Spanish Language and Culture student was in charge of around 90 students and only cites theft and noise as problems ‘sometimes’, adding that the student managers maintained discipline in the house. Layla Mahmood, an American Studies student and Winscho veteran, agrees: ‘Some halls are just more promiscuous than others.’
There seems to be a silent agreement that what happens in Winscho stays in Winscho. Several current and former residents were approached for this article, some from as far away as Australia, others awkwardly through gay chat sites or mutual friends, but most from Winscho and the UB. Few dared to speak.
So what makes Winschonians uncomfortable about this?
‘Winscho people talk about sex all the time. It seemed like it was something everyone was doing for fun and gossiping about afterwards. Talking to a newspaper about it is taboo, however. People don’t want to be publicly associated with sleeping around’, Layla explains. The 22-year-old Brit pauses and then exclaims: ‘Don’t include me! I’m just an observer.’
According to Layla, a distinction has to be made. Although frequent, casual sex is common in Winscho, it would be wrong to generalize and say that all Winschonians are at it. ‘There are many students who are not sexually active but are very vocal. It’s an environment tailored for diverse people.’
Olvah, who mentions how shocked she was when she first heard about it, advises: ‘If you’re from a conservative, religious country, be open-minded about it. There were two people in my hall sleeping with each other and others. I had never seen anything like it before, but they were fine about it.’
‘Go there!’ advises Stephanie. ‘Meeting lots of new people is worth more than the noise, theft and drama. You make lots of new friends and become one big family. You will not regret it!’