'Where Will I Live?' How To Secure International Accommodation
One of the most important things to do before you even start your studies is to sort out where you’re going to live. This is particularly important for foreign students entering the country for the first time to study. There are a whole variety of options available to students, depending upon their budget, but it is worth noting that the majority of first year students opt to stay in halls of residence, within the campus area. Not only is there a higher level of pastoral care, but there is more of a social and communal atmosphere, making it easier to make new friends. However, if you can’t secure yourself a place in a hall of residence, or you’d prefer to live off-campus there are a number of available options.
Most universities own their own on-campus halls of residences that will provide shelter for both national and international students. Catered halls are frequently popular among first year students and those leaving home for the first time as they act as a stop-gap between being solely dependent upon others (such as parents and relatives) and fending for yourself.
A catered hall of residence will provide a minimum of one full evening meal a day, although many will provide their residents with some form of breakfast. These meals will take place between set hours and there will be a set menu with a few meal options available. In general, students will be provided with a room to sleep in, and will be allowed access to TV facilities, bathroom facilities and limited kitchen facilities in a communal area.
The standard of the halls will depend not only upon the academic establishment, but also on how much the student is willing to pay. Many of the low-cost halls will require their students to share a bedroom with another student, whereas more expensive halls may even offer en-suite facilities.
While a catered hall of residence will cater for a wide range of dietary requirement, many people do prefer to spend their first year living more independently, while still remaining on campus. Opting live in a self-catered university residence is one way of doing this.
The majority of self-catered residencies are more homely in structure, with a number of bedrooms (4-6 on average, although there can be more) being attached to shared communal bathroom, kitchen and living room facilities. The size of the apartment cluster and the possibility of rooms having private bathrooms will largely depend upon the price and location of the halls. However, for those who do not wish to share their living space with strangers may apply to live in self-contained flats for a higher fee.
Demand for on-campus accommodation is particularly high, and it is often difficult for academic establishments to house all of their students in university owned housing. Plus it is normal for most internationals students to move off campus in their 2nd and 3rd years.
You can move into a shared house or flat which you rent from a landlord or letting agent for a 12 month contract (in most cases). You pay a fixed rent per month. In some cases utility bills such as gas and electricty will be included but you should confirm this with the landlord before signing a contract. Check for additional charges such as for internet or phone landline. Most landlords or agents will require a minimum deposit of a month’s rent which should be paid back at the end of the tenancy, provided there has been no damage to the house or flat. They also require a third party to guarantee the lease, so that payments will be made to the landlord if a student falls behind on their rent.
If you do plan on renting from a private landlord, then do get in touch with your university housing office. Not only will they be able to advise you on tenancy contracts, but they will have a list of local landlords or agents that have a good reputation for letting to students.
There is also the option to rent a room in a private student accommodation building complex owned by a third company. This off-campus complex will house dozens to hundreds of students (often international students) and are common in major, highly-populated cities which atttact a lot of international students. You'll have your own room (and possbly bathroom), and and share a kitchen and social space with a small number of others. Staff are on site 24 hours a day to deal with any queries. It's a bit like living in a hotel!
You can also live with a family in their home as part of a homestay. You pay rent for a private room and they provide home-cooked meals for you. Homestay hosts undergo proper checks to ensure students will be happy, safe and comfortable with them. This is a great option if you want to see a slightly different side to life in your destination. Your English skills will likely improve quicker as you'll be interacting with a local family more frequently and you'll be exposed to things you wouldn't otherwise see if you were living with other (international) students. Plus if all goes well you can form a really close bond with the family that lasts a lifetime!
If you don’t know anyone to move in with, and your application for on-campus accommodation has been declined there’s no need to worry. In fact it can sometimes be easier looking for rental accommodation when there’s only one person to consider, so why don’t you see if anyone’s looking for a lodger?
If you’re looking for a room to rent, then look on sites such as Spare Room or Great Flatmate or have a look at a list of rooms to rent at your university’s housing office. If you prefer more of a familial environment, or you don’t want to live with a whole host of other students, then perhaps you should consider a homestay with a family.
This will not only help improve your language skills, but will be a fantastic opportunity to know the local area, and to gain an understanding of the country’s culture. This quite often also works out cheaper.
Every university has a moral responsibility to ensure that their students are housed safely and will have a housing office that will provide students with all the information they need to know about local accommodation. They will not only be able to give advice on where to live, but will be able to assist in a number of domestic matters from dealing with difficult landlords and flatmates to breach of contract.
Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.