So you’ve been accepted into an overseas institution and are getting ready to make one of the biggest moves of your life. Studying abroad opens up a whole new world of opportunities and friendships and, for many people, is the first time they will be living away from home.
Aside from making visa applications, booking flights and preparing your admissions documents, one of the most stressful aspects of studying abroad is finding somewhere to live. You want to find somewhere that is convenient to your institution (and ideally near other students) but also within your budget.
What you DON’T want to do is leave your accommodation search to the last minute and be competing against thousands of other students for a place to live.
Know Your Budget
Before you start any online search through a rent comparison website, it’s important to understand the costs of housing in your chosen destination. For example, if you’re studying in New York, Tokyo or London, the costs of housing will be particularly high. Smaller university cities and towns may be less expensive, with more accommodation that is tailored to student needs.
No matter where you’re moving, it’s likely that rent and accommodation will be a large part of your monthly expenses, so you want to choose wisely. Figure out how much you can afford to pay and filter your search results accordingly so that you aren’t tempted by anything more upmarket.
Do You Want Flatmates Or A Private Apartment?
Another thing to consider is whether you want to share your new home with other students or have exclusive use of the space. Aside from helping to keep costs down, sharing accommodation is a great way to make friends in a new city and build up your social network on arrival.
That being said, flatmates can be a big distraction, particularly if you want to knuckle down and keep your head in the books. When browsing online listings, carefully read the description to understand the type of shared house or apartment being advertised and whether they are looking for someone quiet or a party animal.
Select A Location
Do you want to be within walking distance of your classes or are you happy to commute via public transport to get to your institution? In most cases, the housing immediately surrounding a university or college will be more expensive due to the high demand from other students. Venture a little further afield and prices may drop, although you will have to factor transportation costs into your budget.
If you’re not sure about the best neighbourhoods to live in, you can connect with other students via online forums or social media groups to get their recommendations. Most cities have particular areas that are considered “student friendly”, with cheap eateries and bars within walking distance.
Before selecting a neighbourhood to focus your search, make sure you know exactly where the majority of your classes will be. While some tertiary institutions have a single campus, others have facilities spread throughout the city or completely separate schools. This means that an area that is good for one student might not necessarily be good for another.
Prepare Your Documents
When renting an apartment privately or through an agency, you will need to provide a variety of documents to prove your identity and that you can meet the monthly payments. The documentation requirements will vary from country to country but may include ID (driver’s license, passport, student ID), a bank statement or evidence of income, as well as a credit report.
Furnished Vs Unfurnished
If you’re moving from abroad, chances are you are coming with a single suitcase or just a few belongings. So you need to decide whether you want to rent an apartment or room that is fully furnished with a bed and desk or if you’re happy to purchase your own on arrival.
Something to factor into your decision is when you will be arriving in your chosen city and how much time you will have to get organised before classes start. If you are flying in a week or two before things kick off, you might have time to source a few pieces of furniture, as well as any necessary appliances and cookware.
Most universities have social media groups where you can find items being sold or given away by other students. Alternatively, you can search via sites such as Gumtree and Craigslist, depending on the country.
Understand The Lease/Contract
Before you sign a tenancy agreement or contract, make sure you understand exactly what you are agreeing to. If it is in a language in which you are not fluent, get a friend or interpreter to clearly explain it to you. Tenancy agreements not only stipulate the amount of rent to be paid and how often but also the expectations of you as a tenant.