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Copenhagen’s student café Studenterhuset grapples with an uncertain financial future as the Covid-19 closures and restrictions continue. There are still online events, and the cafés director hopes for financial support from foundations.
When Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen instructed Danes to shut down and stay home the evening of 12 March, Director of the student café Studenterhuset Jacob Ørum was forced to send home eight full-time and 17 part-time Studenterhuset employees.
The longer things go on, the more insecure the very future of Studenterhuset becomes
Jacob Ørum, Studenterhuset
In addition to these 25-odd paid-employees, the café usually runs with the help of between 200-300 student volunteers, many of whom are international students. Jacob Ørum reckons that at least 50 per cent of Studenterhuset’s international student volunteers have gone home to their own countries.
Studenterhuset relies heavily on the daily in-flow of cash from the café, without which at present they are struggling to cover basic operational costs (salaries, rent, electricity, security systems, advance food orders, etc). This difficulty is compounded by the fact that summer is their quiet season. If Denmark stays largely, or even partially closed-down, for the remainder of spring, Studenterhuset will need to survive all the way through to September with very little cash flow.
»A few weeks or a month and most of us will come through this no worse for wear,« says Jacob Ørum. »Unfortunately, the longer things go on, the more insecure the very future of Studenterhuset becomes.«
A couple of weeks into the shutdown in Denmark Jacob Ørum applied for funding with a foundation to help pay for one or two staff members to return to work so that Studenterhuset could put together some online iterations of events to support, engage and entertain students while they sit at home.
We expect that many international students likely feel more alone right now than their Danish classmates simply because they are far away from their families and many friends at home.
Jacob Ørum, Studenterhuset
Jacob Ørum and his team did end up hosting two events over the Easter break – an Online Easter Arts&Crafts workshop on 7 April and a Virtual Interactive Concert with Magnus Tempels on 11 April. Jacob Ørum says he is open to hosting virtual versions of quizzes, communal kitchens, language cafés, movie screenings and concerts.
Studenterhuset rents its space from the university and is run as an independent non-profit by a student board. With international student welfare designated as one of Studenterhuset’s key priority areas (as well as sustainability and supporting refugees in Denmark) Jacob Ørum explains that the key problem right now is that »nobody really knows how the international students are doing through all of this.«
»We expect that many international students likely feel more alone right now than their Danish classmates simply because they are far away from their families and many friends at home.«
In the meantime, Jacob Ørum says he is happy that the university, which owns the building, is using the opportunity provided by the café’s temporary closure to carry out some much needed renovations.
»When you’re open seven days a week all year round, finding the time to renovate is a challenge,« he says.