It can be daunting moving to a foreign country alone when you don’t know anyone. There are so many things to think about before you start University too, with accommodation probably the most important. The whole process of finding a place to live is confusing for the majority of students as it’s their first experience of doing so; let alone if you’re international, but we want to help you find the accommodation that’s right for you, as easily and stress-free as possible.
The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to stay in halls of residence or private rented accommodation during your stay. If you opt for halls, there are two different types: University-owned and private rented halls.
University Halls of Residence
Owned by the University, you can view them on the University website (usually located in the Undergraduate section). Universities differ with when you reserve your room – if you’re starting your degree in the UK then you will choose your accommodation once you’ve been offered a place, and will either receive conformation almost instantly; or you’ll rank your chosen halls and receive notification a few weeks before moving in. If you’re an exchange student, it’s likely you’ll just be placed in University halls, but it’s worth contacting someone to confirm this.
Most first year students live in University halls, although about 15% of the rooms are occupied by second and third years, with priority given to international students.
Similar to University Halls, except they’re owned by an external company. Rents tend to be slightly higher, and the contract often 52 weeks compared to the academic year of 40 weeks. In private rented halls, you may find yourself living with students from different Universities, the majority of who will be in second and third year.
You can find private halls in your city on Google, with well-known companies including Unite, Opal and Mansion Students; you can arrange a viewing through the website, or book directly. As there is a wide range of private halls, you can often leave it until three months before you’re due to move in, and you may find a good deal – just don’t leave it any later in case all the rooms have been taken.
Halls have many benefits:
- Bills are included in the price, so you can use as much water/electricity as you want without worrying about the cost
- They’re extremely safe. You’ll more than likely need a code or a fob to get into the grounds, and often other codes for each block; not to mention wardens and CCTV
- Most halls are situated close to University, or even on campus. They’re also a good option if you really want to focus on your studies as you’ll have your own private space to spread your work out
The other option is renting a house – this can be a great way to meet new people, although the idea can be frightening. As an international student moving to the UK, it’s unlikely you’ll know anyone to live with. However, at AFS we have a section on our website dedicated to exactly this. Here, you can upload your details (your name, how much you’re willing to pay, a quick overview of your hobbies and what you’re like as a person), and view advertisements for spare rooms. If you see a property you’re particularly interested in, if possible, try to meet up with the people who will be living in that property to see if you get on. However, this can be impossible if you won’t be in the country before you start University in which case, see if you can have a quick chat over Facebook or Skype.
As well as making friends, there are other benefits to houses, such as more independence as you can pretty much do what you want (within reason). Plus, the rents are generally cheaper too. Nevertheless, there are drawbacks – bills often aren’t included in the rent, so you’ll need to make an arrangement with your housemates.
Location also needs to be taken into consideration – have a look at our reviews to find the popular student areas. The biggest factor is safety: if you don’t feel safe in a particular area, then don’t live there. Small things such as walking back from the bus stop at night really matter, because you don’t want it to stop you from having a social life.
You also need to decide what’s important to you in terms of proximity – do you want to be close to campus or the city centre, or are you fine with a 20 minute bus journey as long as the transport is frequent? If your budget is limited, you’ll probably have to compromise.
Whilst the idea of sorting out accommodation can seem complex, in reality, if you’re organised it’s not a big issue. As an international student, your University is there to help, so don’t worry if you have lots of questions that need answering – that’s what they’re there for! Besides, if you follow this guide, you’ll have nothing to worry about!