The final piece of the study abroad puzzle: finding the right international accommodation. Why should you look high and low for some place to call ‘home, sweet home’, after having received the offer letter from your dream uni?
Finding the right accommodation is extremely essential to your well-being and student-happiness. It could enhance your stay abroad and make you more productive in your educational pursuits as well. ICEF Monitor looked at student accommodation trends from the globe-over and guess what they found? They saw that the quality and the variety of accommodation options were major deciding factors, as to why students pick certain schools and unis.
Their studies revealed that these two factors were key in converting student interest to applications:
- For student-recruitment: Schools that offer accommodation seemed to attract international students.
- For student-retention: Students (mostly US unis) living on-campus seemed to be more involved and had a lower drop-out rate, along with higher academic performance levels, compared to those who were off-campus students.
Mi Casa es Su Casa!
While many unis provide rooms in their residential halls, there are some that expect you to find private accommodation by yourself. Some unis recommend students to take up certain off-campus accommodation options and help with arrangements, even if they don’t offer any.
You can also choose to use the uni’s accommodation services on a temporary basis before moving to an off-campus option. Every uni has a team of advisors for guidance on accommodation options.
We do realise that finding a good place to live in, from continents or countries away, can be quite a task (so before you get tempted to procrastinate or give up); here are a few pointers to help with your search…
The first thing you need to do is map out the area surrounding your university and look into prospective neighbourhoods. Ask yourself these questions:
Is your university located further away from the city centre?
Is it easily accessible by public transportation?
Are there many restaurants, shops and residences near your campus?
How much is it going to cost you? The answers will help you narrow down your options.
For options that are available slightly farther away from campus, you may want to run a check on how much you will have to spend on travel expenses alone. Does it exceed your monthly budget? Living too far away from campus might hinder you from easily accessing uni facilities.
For cheaper options, consider exploring temporary accommodation like guest houses, home-stays, private hostels, motels and room-sharing deals.
You could use Facebook and other networking sites to access groups, forums and communities that discuss rental options in the city. You may find regular people posting ads on sites like Craigslist, looking for roommates. Even the local newspaper, which you can access online, may have classifieds on rentals.
Universities usually have an approved list of landlords and student-friendly real-estate agents, so make sure you check with your uni advisors.
In addition to considering proximity to the campus, transportation, entertainment and laundry, don’t overlook safety. It’s always good to live in an area where you feel secure at all times. Do they offer security services? Many on-campus options have 24-hour surveillance as well. Take your time to know all available safety measures taken.
Perks of Living with a Roomie
It’s always nice to live on your own, but you can save a lot of money by moving into an apartment with other students and splitting the rent evenly.
Consider that if you move in with an international student from a different country, you can learn a new language. But if you move in with a local, you can learn a great deal about the country you are living in.
For example, if you are living with an American in the US, you could work on your English and get a feel for the local accent. Having a roommate who is a local can also mean having access to good first-hand information on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from the best eateries to doctors in the locality.
Be sure to pick your roommates well; it will definitely enhance your experience abroad.
Living on-campus or opting for home-stay accommodation would sometimes mean having to deal with curfews and other rules. A home-stay is where you live with a local family in their home.
If you feel restricted in space and movement, you can always choose to move out. We, however, urge you to be flexible and adapt to your new environment. Behave responsibly and always be friendly and polite to your fellow roomies.
Popular Student Choices
Your primary choice is between campus accommodation and private accommodation. To help you choose wisely, we’ve put together a pros and cons list for both.
If this is your first time away from home, the uni-managed accommodation will be a great first option to help you settle into your new life.
- The accommodation’s proximity to the uni means you won’t have to worry about travel fare or time.
- Living with other students in close quarters is also a great way of developing friendships outside of the regular working hours.
- You will also know before-hand about on-campus activities, like social events and cultural gatherings.
- Unlike private accommodation, you won’t have to worry about electricity, water and other maintenance-related bills.
- You’re also likely to be well supported by the university in case anything goes wrong.
- Since the university decides your room, you won’t get to choose who you live with.
- You might have to share a common bathroom with other students.
- The rooms may be small and less furnished compared to private accommodation options.
- Living near lots of students can mean having to endure some noise on certain occasions.
Some students may prefer to not live in the campus accommodation, and may opt for private apartments. Here we look at the advantages and disadvantages of living in a private accommodation.
- Living in a private accommodation can be appealing, as it enables you to decide exactly where you live and who you live with.
- Your room is likely to be larger and more spacious than the campus accommodation.
- You have more options to choose from and can opt to live in a better furnished space.
- Private accommodation is likely to be more expensive than the campus accommodation.
- You’ll have to deal with landlords and bills and keep a track of your payments.
- Not being close to the campus can mean having to fund your travel costs. You could also miss out on certain on-campus activities due to distance.
Some private residential options may demand you to make a deposit payment – a sum which will mostly be refunded the day you leave. They may also insist on a small initial payment (non-refundable), so find out your total expenditure before you move in.
Certain private residential options may settle for a discounted price, if you bargain and are willing to commit to a long stay period. In this case, talk to their management and work out a good deal.
In some countries, a few international residences may bill you in dollars and that may work out to being more expensive due to the fluctuating exchange rates. So to avoid losing money, consider the housing options priced in the local currency only.
If you’ve chosen private accommodation, collect details of students residing there at present and any who used to in the recent past and get in touch with them if required. Find out from others what it is like to live there. Do they provide food? What’s the laundry and internet service like? Is it a common toilet system or does every room come with a private bathroom? Ask around and get the answers.
Necessities and Luxuries
Make a checklist of things you definitely need and what you can afford to overlook. Is air-conditioning a must? Do you need a room heater? If you are planning to cook your own meals, you may need kitchen supplies. You may even want a refrigerator in the house. Look into how well furnished the place is and decide based on your needs.
Evaluate the total bill including the taxes of the components you’ve rented out. Internet and cable bills and maintenance charges need to be taken into account as well when you total your rental costs. Local taxes may also vary for the various products and services on offer.
Some Useful Sites
- Student Accommodation One is a site that lets you look into home-stays around the world.
- Student Mundial allows you to find various forms of accommodation abroad.
- Roommate Locater is a good website for finding rooms to rent around the world.
- CasaSwap is a free international housing network, which allows you to find places to rent, sublet and gives you the option to swap accommodation with other members from all over the world.
- Just Landed allows you to connect with expats around the world. It offers useful guides to 38 countries.
- Sharemyflat is a not-for-profit website where landlords list out available rooms.
- If you are looking for temporary stay options or sites that help travellers find easy accommodation, then look into Couchsurfing, Be Welcome and The Hospitality Club.
- You can also browse location-specific listings such as Craigslist and London House Hunters.
As you finalise and are making your deposit payment to the landlord, ensure you sign a proper contractual agreement. Take a local, who knows the legalities of rental agreements, with you. Don’t end up paying a deposit without the proper papers to back the deal. The best thing you can do is find landlords who have previously leased out their apartments to other students.
A lot of unis have fixed deadlines within which you are expected to give them a nod for their accommodation options. So as soon as you receive your offer letter, find out the dates within which you can apply for the uni’s accommodation options.
What are you looking for: on-campus or private accommodation? These are the two main options to consider. Look into the pros and cons of each and decide for yourself which accommodation works best for you. We advise you to opt for an on-campus accommodation, if it’s available. Its advantages, especially for students new to a country, outweigh the private accommodation options. But of course, no one solution fits all.
These are a few factors we think you should bear in mind, while you are on the lookout for your much-needed uni accommodation. We hope you are one step closer to feeling at home in your study destination now. Do you have any more pointers to share with us on this topic? We would love to know what you think — feel free to drop us a line or two in the comment section below.