Millions of students leave home every year heading for colleges and universities around the world. Almost every one of them goes through a difficult ordeal in searching for accommodations far from home. Some exchange programs include housing, whereas others do not, leaving you to find a place independently. Well that’s a great thing, because it gives you freedom to choose where you want to live and with whom. Let’s go through all the ins and outs (and what have you’s) of finding the perfect flat when studying abroad!
Why live off campus?
The first decision to take. The advantage of living on campus is that you don’t have to commute, you always have your buddies around, hopefully there’s a great student vibe with lots of activities going on and sometimes it’s cheaper than renting your own place. However, some campuses are located outside the city center, the dorms aren’t always in such great shape, you don’t get the same freedom as living by yourself and on occasion you might get matched up with unpleasant roommates.
But! if you rent a place by yourself, you really get a taste of grown-up life. If you’re still living on campus in the US, it’s a great experience to have this trial of living on your own. You also have the perk of renting a place together with friends or your future classmates, thus avoiding nightmare roommates. You can choose any location you want, whether it’s a cool hipster neighborhood or if you’re looking for a more exclusive and quiet area, it’s all up to your preferences (and budget of course).
Getting started on your flat hunt
First of all, do your research about the different neighborhoods of the city. Either buy a city guide, borrow one from your college library, or search for your destination on WikiTravel. They have free neighborhood guides for many cities around the world, giving you a rough idea of what’s your best fit.
Make a budget to determine how much you can spend on rent. Don’t forget to consider factors such as transport: even if you spend less on your flat, you might end up paying more in the end if you must buy a bus pass or frequently must cab it home after rowdy late nights out.
Next, start looking at what’s available in your new home town. Here are a few options:
- Check out Classifieds sites like Craigslist where Landlords can list available rooms, but be careful of fraudulent advertisements.
- Look for different groups on Facebook (try searching for “Apartments in Barcelona” or “apartments in London” and variations thereof.
- Real Estate Agents offer strong local knowledge since they have staff in the area. They are usually more suited for students who are already in the city. It’s hard to find or use their services until you’ve actually arrived. Keep in mind that you may be charged a commission for their services.
- Conside a student focused website like Student Mundial that only shows you budget-friendly alternatives, lets you contact the landlord directly, prevents fraud by escrowing payments until after move-in and it’s FREE to use the service.
Once you’ve found a few flats you’re interested in, contact the landlords and schedule viewings during your arrival week. During your first week, one option is to crash on a friend’s couch if you know any locals in the city, or otherwise stay at a hostel to meet other travelers. That way, you won’t feel lonely (since chances are that you don’t know anyone in your new city yet) and you get some time to explore the city and pick the neighborhood that best suits your personal taste. Make sure to ask the people working at the hostel for any advice when it comes to housing.
What to watch out for
Be careful with paying deposits before you’ve actually seen the place in real life with your own eyes. It’s a common scam all over the world that landlords you meet online will ask you to wire (anyone who mentions Western Union – completely avoid!) a deposit even before arrival, but upon arrival your new landlord is nowhere to be found. Sure, sometimes it’s legit, but not always, so be careful.
With a service such as Student Mundial you can relax. You only need to pay the first month rent, which is escrowed until you arrive. The money is only transferred after you move in and everything is ok. That way you can focus on enjoying your new city!
Make sure to get a written contract in a language that both you and the host understand (most probably English), signed by both parties. Keep it as specific as possible (duration, rent, deposit amount and so on). If the landlord doesn’t provide you with one, there are plenty of good free templates if you Google it – just make sure it’s for the country you’re going to. Insist on having it written since it’s the only evidence that will hold up.
Finally, when viewing the apartment, look for a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher. Make sure that there’s no mold in the bedroom, bathroom or kitchen (tip: check under the kitchen sink, that’s a common place). If the apartment is on the ground floor, make sure there are sturdy locks – better safe than sorry!
Ready to move!
Now you’re all set and ready to find your dream apartment in your new home town.
Ana is guest blogging on behalf of Student Mundial. She is currently working in mind and spirit for international students and focused on new trends around Social Media. She defines herself as a cultural translator collecting smiles around the world.
Feel free to contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions or additional useful advice, please share it in the comments below!
Studentmundial.com is a platform that helps students to find housing when they travel away from home to study. Their network lets students meet potential flatmates, other students attending the same school, and offer spare rooms. The team members are graduates from all over Europe with a wealth of study and work abroad experience. Student Mundial ensures the security of the student’s payment and the reliability of the property provider by escrowing the booking payment. They add elements of trust thanks to their 7 years of experience, user-written reviews and premium SSL payment system. And the best thing is: there’s no cost for the student! Here are her best tips for finding your dream apartment for your study abroad.