You read our guide for international student travel and now your suitcases are packed, all your documents are in order, flights booked and you’re ready to go and start your new adventure. One thing though, you still need to figure out your international student accommodation.
Once you leave home you will no longer have somewhere to live and so you need a room or an apartment at your abroad study destination. Finding that accommodation may seem like the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do or it could be one of the biggest adventures of your stay abroad.
Well, that’s if you know what to do. And that’s the point of my post today. Keep reading to find out how to make finding accommodation abroad very easy.
To get started you need to be aware of the type of accommodation available in your study destination and then consider what your accommodation needs are.
Keep in mind that there are different types of student housing in different countries. Your expectations when looking for student accommodation in Manchester if you’re studying in England will be different from another student who will be studying in Germany.
Ask yourself what kind of living situation you want. Are you interested in living in a dorm with other international students? Do you want to live alone? Are you interested in living with locals so you can learn the local language?
Typical student accommodation abroad options include:
Many of the universities and colleges will have student housing in form of dorms or shared student apartments. In most cases, priority will be given to international students through the room is always limited.
As a first time international student this is the most appropriate and easy to find the type of accommodation. You can consider living in your university housing for the first semester as you look for other available accommodation options.
For this type of accommodation, registering as early as you can is the trick to getting a room. Contact your university abroad and find out what type of accommodation they offer and what you need to do to get a spot.
University accommodation is, however, not always the cheapest option but is the least stressful because if you contact the university in good time, you will receive your keys as soon as you arrive at the institution.
Your institution may not be offering student housing but may have a network of third-party operated student housing options and they may help you to get a spot. These are also good options to explore because they will normally be within student budgets.
The advantage of living in an apartment is that you have freedom, flexibility, and independence that is not available in student dorms. You can choose to live alone or share the apartment with another student.
Apartments are also available at varied prices so you can choose how much you want to spend on rent and some even have student flats that are student friendly. Simply find an apartment that’s within your budget.
Living alone is all sorts of exciting. You have no one to hold your hand and so you jump straight into an adventure. You get to immerse yourself as fully or as partially into your host country as you so wish.
Living in a student dorm may come with the pressure to keep up with other students and you may not have as much freedom to choose your adventures. You find yourself going with what the others are doing.
An apartment though gives you room to explore life abroad under your own terms.
If you want to share an apartment be sure to consider the person you want to share the apartment with care because you want to live with someone you can get along with to minimize conflicts.
Also, consider renting a furnished apartment to avoid having to spend so much money buying furniture and items that you will have to leave behind once you’re done with your course abroad.
Homestays as accommodation for international students involve living with a local family, this could be an entire family, a couple, or a single host parent.
The host family gives you a room, either private or shared and you pay for rent, utilities, and food. A homestay is a great option if you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, language, lifestyle, and food.
The downside of the homestay is that it lacks the privacy and freedom that comes with living in an apartment. You also have to adhere to the rules of the host family which can often be quite restricting for you as a college student who is just getting used to your newfound freedom away from your parents.
Now that you know the options available and probably have an idea of the type of international accommodation you want, let’s check out how to find the best accommodation for you in the shortest time possible.
The earlier you start searching for accommodation the higher your chances of finding a spot. Once you get your university letter of confirmation, contact your advisor and request for suggestions on available accommodation options.
A quick Google search on the available student accommodation types in the country of study will also give some good insights on what to look for. If for example, you’re going to study abroad in Australia Google for student accommodation in Australia.
If you’re going for the student dorm option, find out what you need to do and if it’s possible to apply for a spot before leaving home, then do so asap.
If you’d rather go for the homestay option, the university could also help you find suitable families. Get their contacts and get in touch with them to find the most suitable family.
If you’re not yet sure what option is best for you, do some online research and find out what other students recommend. Third Year Abroad is a good international accommodation platform that is run by a former international student and will be a very useful starting point especially if you are going to study abroad in Europe.
As you research about available accommodation in your study host country, find out which parts of the city where you will be living are the best for students Not every part of a country will be good to live in so do your research well.
There are online portals that you can use to find a city’s rent listings. Going through these portals will help you gain some insights on what the average room prices are as well as have a feel of how the living standards are in order to decide how much you’re willing to spend on accommodation.
They are also great for finding last-minute student accommodation just in case you arrived in your host country too close to the start of classes.
Remember to be country specific in your search. If you’re studying in London, you will have better search results if you use student accommodation London portals than using general student portals.
There are several factors that make a location good for you. Security and access to various amenities such as shops, restaurants, supermarkets, train stations or bus stops are among the top considerations.
Cost is also a factor that should determine where you will live. Some areas are more expensive than others.
Also, consider the proximity of your accommodation to your school. You don’t want to live too far off campus making it a daily struggle to attend classes.
So your research has borne fruit and you’ve found a good place to rent. Now hold your horses, don’t take out your credit card just yet.
Never pay for any type of international student accommodation before you have seen it.
Once you arrive to your host country visit the apartment that you’ve identified and liked. Take a local with you if you can to make sure they give you a local perspective of the housing option and tell you if it’s a good deal or not.
As you do your research, look for references to find out what kind of landlord you will be dealing with. You don’t want to rent from someone who is problematic and doesn’t take care of their property.
While student dorms and shared residences are the most ideal for new international students, it’s still important that you find out the type of housing you’re getting. You certainly don’t want to end up in a dump!
Don’t forget to inquire about the payment methods that your university will use. For instance, you may be charged higher as an international student than local students.
You may also lose money if you’re charged in your home currency during the exchange. To avoid this, request the institution to bill you in the local currency.
Also, inquire if it’s possible to pay using an international student card. In some cases, you might actually get a discount towards your rent when using your student card.
It’s very easy to fall into the traps of scammers as you search for accommodation. Being new to a country and its culture, you are vulnerable to people taking advantage of you.
You may spot scams easily and at face value but there are some signs of a scam that you should be aware of to help you pick up anyone trying to steal your money.
Be careful if you find an apartment at a great location, is furnished with designer furniture and the rental price is way below what you’ve observed as the average price. This is one of those cases where something is indeed too good to be true.
Another giveaway is the kind of response you receive when you inquire about a room. If you get a response giving you excuses why you cannot talk to the landlord or view the house, that’s a scam right there don’t fall for it!
No matter how much you love the apartment don’t ever make a down payment before you see the house in person. You may be feeling anxious to get yourself a place to stay before you leave home so that you settle into your host country faster but always be cautious to avoid losing money.
To avoid getting scammed or overcharged for housing:
- Going by the average rent prices of the type of accommodation you want to set a budget for your rent and stick to it.
No matter how much a landlord pushes you don’t give in keep looking until you find a good place that’s within your budget. Some people may simply want to play on your naivety to charge you more.
- Ask the right questions as you search for accommodation. If people give you vague answers take them with a pinch of salt and probe further. If you’re able to try and talk to former tenants to give you a better understanding of what you can expect to get from the deal.
You can find former tenants by joining local student accommodation online forums. If you’re studying in Melbourne search for student accommodation Melbourne forums and here you’ll find people sharing their experiences.
- Go through the lease thoroughly when renting a room abroad. Make sure that you fully understand what the lease is binding you to. Ask the help of a local student to read it to make sure it’s within the law and you’re not being exploited. Confirm if utilities are included in your rent and if yes which utilities.
Put together a room starter kit to help you find the perfect accommodation type and make your move abroad easy. The kit should have street and public transport maps of the city where you will be living in.
Include common and important vocabulary and phrases in the local language that will help you as you search for accommodation. Learn the local terms for “room”, “flat”, “rent”, etc.
Learning the local vocabulary and phrases is great because you don’t come off as too ‘foreign’. It will make people think that you’ve been in the country for a while and will, therefore, not be too quick to take advantage of you.
The last most important thing in your starter kit is a local SIM card. Get one as soon as you arrive in your host country.
Do some research before you leave home or ask your student advisor to help you choose the best local SIM cards. A local SIM card is important when searching for accommodation because landlords are more likely to respond to local calls as opposed to international numbers.
Lastly, while the goal is to enjoy cheap study abroad, don’t fall into the trap of giving up quality over quantity. Don’t make your housing too tight that you have to live in a dump just so as to save money.
Sure, it will be good to save a few hundred dollars but this may mean living in an unsafe area where your house could be broken into and you end up losing your personal belongings. This is a loss of more money in the long run.
Always keep safety above money. You are better off spending a few bucks and be sure that you and your belongings are safe.
Remember though, the most important tip is to not despair. With a reasonable budget keep your mind open, be ready to make compromises and spend more time looking for the right accommodation and not settle for the first one you come across.
These are just a few good tips to help you find the best international student accommodation abroad. However, keep in mind that every country has its own challenges, not everywhere will be the same.
For instance student accommodation Sydney options may differ greatly with those say in Tokyo. Go with an open mind and be ready to face various quirks and peculiarities when it comes to findings rooms and apartments. Just don’t be caught by surprise!