It’s no secret that living abroad comes with its own set of problems. We’ve all heard parents tell horror stories about their seedy apartment on the wrong side of town, 2 hours away from their college. Here are five things to keep in mind when planning your accommodation abroad as an international student, as suggested by Sayantan Biswas, co-founder of UniScholarz and UniAcco:
Location Location Location! – Depending on where you are headed in the world, the part of town you end up in can make or break your entire journey. In dense urban centers like Sydney, London and Boston, a few miles can add hours of road traffic and therefore expense. In 2021, 22% of all US commuters had to spend more than half an hour traveling only to their destination each day, according to Statistical.
So what can you do about it? To research. Broadly understand the different boroughs of your destination and where your university is located. Learn as much as you can about public transport systems and download all the useful locally recommended train and bus tracker apps. This way you will know exactly what you are looking for when talking to a broker or looking for a house through online platforms.
money matters– Although some students opt for on-campus accommodation, it may limit their exposure to the real culture and vibe of the new country, which may affect the quality of their experience abroad. Also, at Ivy League colleges like Harvard or MIT, on-campus stays tend to be very Dear option (For example, INR 6-14L /9 months at Harvard Law).
So what is the solution ? Fortunately, finding off-campus housing is easier (and cheaper). Homestays, paid accommodation and even couch-surfing are becoming realistic options. That said, the safest option is still international student management services and brokers, as their costs are outweighed by the peace of mind and hassle-free experience they provide.
Roommate dilemma- In practice, roommates may become necessary in very upscale locations and if you opt for on-campus housing, the decision to have a roommate may not even be in your hands.
If you have to share a house, it is advisable to opt for someone who knows the local language and the city so that you can also learn some useful phrases and mannerisms. Plus, if your roommate attends the same university as you, many upfront issues like travel and campus orientation are avoided entirely.
Check Hidden Expenses- Although tedious, it’s in your best interest to keep an eye on a few spending points early on so you won’t be surprised later when your bills arrive.
Check your lease for details such as length of stay, check-in and check-out dates, utilities included, and additional fees. There are always additional expenses like lease break and installation fees, which you should be aware of when they become applicable.
Look for professionals who can guide you: Unsurprisingly, this is where a good hosting manager can save you. The best of these services can suggest, compare and help decide on your student accommodation across international borders. Today, some services go further and partner directly with native organizations in destination countries to provide you with the most accurate bureaucratic information possible. This is an easier process as these platforms are well aware of well-connected locations across countries and can guide students to get their money’s worth.
Safety first- Let’s understand the most common form of fraud used against international students. Basically, a student finds someone online with a good room at a great price and they ask for a deposit or booking fee. Of course, if these “fees” are paid, the scammer simply keeps the money and moves on, and students are often unable to seek legal aid in these cases because they are in an entirely different. Some student destinations like the UK now require you to arrange accommodation before you even enter the country, precisely to avoid such sticky situations. Therefore, it is a good idea that you do a background check before committing to any payments. Check the location of the building, the credentials of the real estate broker, the website of the management department, etc., and only move forward when there is no more room for unpleasant surprises.
This column is part of a bunch of tips published throughout August – a special offer from the Free Press Journal to help Indian students study abroad.
(To receive our daily E-paper on WhatsApp, please Click here. To receive it on Telegram, please Click here. We allow the PDF of the document to be shared on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)