If your study abroad program does not provide housing, has multiple housing options, or if you decide to extend your stay in a city and need to find accommodation independently, here are some important factors to consider:
A useful way to find out whether a place is safe is to get references from people who have stayed there. Abroad101 itself serves as a database to post reviews. Another useful resource is Transitions Abroad, which also posts past participant reports. Inquire with your individual hosts, too.
2. Proximity to school
For practical purposes, find out how you will be getting to school. Walking? Public transport? Also, find out if other academic resources, such as libraries, are close. When I studied abroad in Paris, I remember walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg each morning to get to school. It was a beautiful walk and I got to school in a good mood every morning!
Being close to public transport will save you time and money. Get a map beforehand, and in-country, buy a multiple-trip-ticket. When studying abroad in Madrid, my apartment was extremely well connected. Not only was there a multiple-line metro stop right outside the door, but numerous buses would get me to school, too. Location, location, location, I must say.
4. Services in the neighborhood
Think about the kinds of amenities you appreciate having at home, and then find out whether they are available near your housing abroad. Possible services to consider include: internet, cafés, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, entertainment, laundry, parks, athletic and cultural venues, etc. Note that some neighborhoods may be known as “party neighborhoods” and with a lot of late-night noise, studying might be difficult.
5. Making friends
Naturally, it will be easier to make friends if you are living with people your own age, such as at a student residence or in a shared apartment with other young people. Think about how important this is to you. Will you enjoy getting to know students from all over the world if you live in an international student dormitory? Thanks to the living arrangements of a student residence, I immediately found friends in Buenos Aires – a city I had never been to before.
6. Having a support network
Do you consider yourself an independent student, or would you prefer to live with a family that provides a support network? Or does a student residence, where you have a support staff, sound more appealing to you? Think about what kind of person you are, and choose accordingly.
Home stays can offer unique insights into the local culture and cuisine. Think about the implications if you live with locals versus other exchange students. I can say from experience that surrounding yourself with locals is going to teach you much more about the local culture. If I hadn’t made friends with local Argentineans in Patagonia, I never would have learned how to make empanadas, home made pizzas or alfajores.
Again, home stays can be a great way to learn the language. Make sure to surround yourself with locals for full-on language immersion.
Think about what kind of meals will be offered at the housing location. Or do you prefer cooking your own meals and having a kitchen? As a vegetarian, I myself choose to live in a student residence with a kitchen in Buenos Aires. This way, I could do my own grocery shopping and avoid the meat-heavy Argentinean diets.
Cheap Hotels just released a report comparing the average nightly rate of budget hotels. There are significant differences of more than $100 per night depending on the neighborhood an establishment is located in. The next time you book, consult not only travel dates and prices, but a map, too.
Where to get started…
Resources for finding accommodation abroad: