One of the most important considerations international students have to make is how to go about finding accommodation when studying abroad. Most of us spend our pre-university days living with our families or guardians, with life comforts and necessities provided for us. However, when we decide to start college, especially if we are moving far away, we suddenly have to think long and hard about what kind of accommodation we want.
This is not something fresh high school graduates are used to dealing with, generally speaking. Therefore, it is important to have the right mindset when looking for accommodation. Ideally, it is something we decide a while before we actually get to our destination. However, there can be other options as well.
Of course, nobody can tell you what is most important to you when it comes to the place you will be staying at, so take these tips as general guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. Additionally, particularly for longer study programmes, keep in mind that nothing prevents you from switching accommodations at some point.
One of the first steps in finding accommodation when studying abroad has to do with figuring out what kind of accommodation you want. What do we mean by this? Well, here are the several different types of accommodation, each with their own advantages and disadvantages:
These are usually located on or close to campus. They are often one of if not the cheapest forms of student accommodation, sometimes being fully included in your scholarship. This makes them an attractive prospect for students looking to save money. The added social aspect they provide is also a good selling point, as you will almost always be surrounded by other students. However, this does come with its own issues such as lack of privacy and so on (not to mention the fact that you usually do not get to choose who your roommates are). There is also not much you can do to customize your living space beyond sticking a couple of posters on the wall and bringing in one or two small pieces of furniture.
This option is a step up in terms of complexity in relation to staying in a dorm. It requires more careful planning long before you get to your destination. With the assumption that you will be renting this place out, you will need to research the options around your university carefully to find the best offers. Universities can sometimes also help you with this. Finding accommodation when studying abroad is difficult enough on your own but becomes even more so when you are trying to coordinate with other people. This is why it helps to have the person (or people in case of a group home) you are sharing this place with potentially be a friend that you previously know. A shared arrangement of this kind affords you more privacy than a dorm and, depending on where the place you are staying at is and how nice it is, can be quite an enjoyable way to spend your time abroad. Keep in mind, also, that staying with native residents of the country can improve your language skills and you can learn a lot of new things in general from being exposed to others.
This option is the same as the last one but without any roommates. Obviously, it will be financially more challenging seeing as how you will not be splitting the price of rent and utilities with anyone. However, you will also not require as big of a place if it is only you staying there. Having a space all to yourself affords you the greatest levels of privacy and flexibility, though it can feel lonely at times, especially if you are prone to feeling homesick.
Looking for a host family is a great strategy in terms of finding accommodation when studying abroad, especially if you prefer to live in a family environment. It is important, however, that you find people you are compatible with as well as those that will not financially bleed you dry.
Probably the most important part of finding accommodation when studying abroad is conducting thorough research on what your options are. Especially if you decide not to stay in a dorm, you will need to comb through a lot of accommodation options to find your ideal one. Of course, you could just wing it and go with the first or second one you see, but know that doing this means risking a miserable time during your time there, at least until you can find something else.
There are many websites that act as databases of student accommodation. Other helpful sources of information include Facebook groups for international students, especially those related to the specific university you are enrolling in. You can find roommate offers on websites like Craigslist, too. Even your local newspaper, which you can read online, can feature rental listings. Make sure to also check with your college advisors because most universities offer a list of landlords and real estate professionals who are willing to work with students.
As with any other kind of search for real estate, one of the core aspects to consider when finding accommodation when studying abroad is location. If you opt to stay in a dormitory, then you will usually have that part taken care of for you. However, other types of accommodation demand that you carefully think about their location in relation to your needs and budget.
Here are some questions to ask:
When it comes to safety, not all neighbourhoods are created equal. One thing you want to avoid is opting for a place just because it is cheap but then spending your time there in perpetual anxiety of it being robbed or assaulted. Your family will also be more at ease if they know that you are as safe as you can be.
Ask the housing about the safety system when you contact them. Are security services offered by them? Numerous on-campus choices also have round-the-clock security and surveillance. Spend some time learning about all the various safety measures.
Everyone is different in terms of what they value most in their day-to-day lives. Only you know what is most important to you in finding accommodation when studying abroad. Think carefully about what luxuries you are willing to forego and what you simply cannot go without.
Make a list of the items you absolutely must have and the things you can live without. Is air conditioning a requirement? Do you require a heater? If you intend to prepare your own meals, you might need a well-equipped kitchen. Even having a refrigerator at home might be a good idea. Consider the space’s furnishings and make a decision based on whether or not they fit your unique needs.
It can be difficult to look for the perfect place to live in preparation for studying abroad. You have to take your needs into consideration and conduct careful research into the location and safety of the place you are thinking about. Different accommodation types are also available and they each suit a different type of person.
However, the good news is that you do not, in fact, have to find the perfect place, but only a good enough one. As long as you are happy on most days and there are no practical obstructions to you living your life and giving it your all when it comes to your studies, then it is likely that you have hit the jackpot.
Finding accommodation when studying abroad can be stressful but it can also be fun and exciting. We hope that we have provided you with what you need to make an informed decision. Good luck! And, as always, we are here for your studying abroad needs.
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