International Student Accommodation: A Guide
What accommodation options are available for international students, and what key questions should you ask when deciding where to live?
So you've decided to study abroad. You now need somewhere to stay. This will be your home for the next few years, where you will live, eat, sleep and quite often where your social life will be based. So take some time to research and explore before making your decision.
Accommodation is bound to be one of the first things that comes to mind when you consider studying abroad, and your final decision will be based on a number of factors.
There are a variety of options when it comes to international student accommodation, and also a number of considerations and checkpoints you should run through before making your choice - which is also bound to be partially based on personal preference.
Whatever your budget, and whether it be university housing or something in the private sector, there will be an option for you.
As an international student, this may be the first time you've lived on your own, or perhaps even your first time abroad. It may also be the first time you have had to manage costs and deal with any aspect of accommodation.
It is, therefore, important to realise at the outset that this is a major decision. Your student accommodation will be a place you relax, study, and probably most importantly, meet friends, natives and fellow travellers.
- More advice about choosing student accommodation >
Planning, support and advice
The general rule to bear in mind is that you are responsible for finding your own accommodation, but it is common for your institute to offer help or support, especially when it comes to university accommodation.
This support may range from them going as far as actually finding a place for you (should you want to leave this to their judgement), to offering a range of options, to simply advising you the best practise to follow.
As well as advice and assistance from your university, specific organizations exist in most countries whose purpose is to advise and take the burden off the whole process.
They also often have connections with various housing organizations and may be able to find you somewhere should you be having difficulty. Also be sure to check student notice boards (online and offline), and local newspapers also often advertise rooms, apartments and houses for rent.
Depending on your preference, and also how well you plan ahead and research the student housing market in your chosen destination, you could end up in anything from a newly refurbished house, to a rundown student haunt.
Types of student accommodation
Depending on where you decide to study, your choices of student accommodation may be quite varied and provide very different experiences. You will also find that in some countries, finding somewhere to stay will be as easy as falling off a log, while in others you will have to plan far in advance and often spend more than you may have envisaged.
Campus accommodation is university-run accommodation, and usually within the confines of the university. There are numerous advantages to this, and as such, this is more often than not the first port of call and the most beneficial choice.
You are likely to be close to other university buildings, and safety is likely to be taken care of by the university - with secure entries and perhaps even security guards on hand.
There are also social benefits - you'll be living amongst many other students, both local and from other countries. Many halls of residence organize social events to bring everyone together regularly, as well as the more casual interactions that come from cooking in a communal kitchen, hanging out in shared leisure space, or simply bumping into people on your way in and out.
Of course there can also be disadvantages. The quality of facilities is likely to vary significantly, so be sure to check things such as location, the size of the rooms and how many people are sharing the space before you make a decision.
No university housing?
In some countries, campus accommodation is rare or not offered at all. Germany and Holland have next to none, while in France it is reserved only for recipients of government-distributed scholarships.
In such countries, private accommodation will normally be readily available, although sometimes at a higher cost. The social scene where you live will not be quite the same as in student halls, but you'll often find clusters of student housing, so it's still possible to feel you're living in a student community.
There's also the additional benefits of being closer to other aspects of local life, and perhaps more immersed in the life of the city or town where you are based.
Another option, especially popular in countries such as the US, Canada and Australia, is to stay with a local family. Home-stays can be a great experience, providing a different way to get to know the local culture, and perhaps to learn the language.
Universities may run schemes which match students to suitable families. Prices will usually include meals.
Some universities may also offer to arrange temporary accommodation for you, so you have time on arrival to look around and make an informed decision about which type of student accommodation you will opt for.
- Does the housing have all the furnishings that you need? Are they of an acceptable standard? Or do you need to provide your own?
- Is there a desk you to work at and enough space for your computer?
- Is the kitchen equipped with cooking utensils?
- Are bed sheets and linen provided? Are there laundry facilities?
- Are there additional costs for certain services?
- Are you given phone and internet access? Do you have to sort this out yourself? How much will it cost?
Off you go!
This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in September 2021