Finding Accommodation in a New Country: A Guide

Oddly enough, searching for and finding accommodation is often one of the last things considered by students, whether they are moving country or not. And yet considering it’s so high on the list of needs for not just students, but everyone, it can be quite puzzling trying to understand why.

One good reason to put it off is that it can be so difficult to judge the place you’re going to be living in, seeing as they can potentially be more than an ocean away. Estate agents and realtors are renowned for misrepresenting housing in photographs, whether by adjusting the perspective or lighting to make rooms appear larger or cleaner than they really are, or perhaps simply by leaving the worst parts of the house out of the picture completely.

Or even if the structure (and smell) of the building is okay, how are you to know if the Wi-Fi works well, or there’s no phone signal, or the neighbours are loud? How, in short, can you find the right place to live without having been there?

1.       Start Early

As soon as you’re accepted, many students will begin the application process for housing and many landlords will rent out apartments on a first-come-first-serve basis. Universities and sometimes even colleges will offer housing, including the famed ‘halls of residence’, in which the majority of first year students will stay.

Check for official accommodation from the college or university first. The university website, or their accommodation department are good places to start. 

2.       Be Adventurous

You also shouldn’t assume that student housing is the best (or only) option. Great friends are to be found by being adventurous – just the process of finding a place to live with someone can be a great friendship builder. It’s also the case that many students will travel back home over the holidays or weekends, meaning it can get pretty empty if you choose halls or uni accommodation. If you’re travelling to learn a language, it can be especially vital that you find a place with native speakers, as you’re far more likely to learn that way.

3.       Cast a Wide Net

Sometimes the best way to find a place is through someone who knows someone else with a spare room going. Flat hunting through the official routes can be tough, and landlords are often suspicious of year-abroad students, but with a personalised recommendation, this can make you appear to landlords as a very trustworthy tenant.

Speak with previous students. Remember you’re not alone. There are huge numbers of students going abroad at the same time as you, and huge numbers going back home. So you can ask, ‘Is anyone leaving their flat in so-and-so?’ There are large numbers of groups of Facebook and the like committed to connecting you with fellow travellers.

4.       Beware of Dodgy Deals

So you’ve found your perfect flat online and the landlord wants a deposit. What now? Look at ads for similar places in the area to gauge a sense of prices and check you’re not being ripped off. If you’re staying somewhere for more than a month, make sure there is a proper contract involved and read all the small print. It can help to practice the language before you leave, but if you’re not confident in that or you’re still concerned…

5.       Use an Existing Service

There does exist services provided by those such as Studapart, who exist as a kind of middle man between yourself and the landlords, who additionally specialise in finding accommodation for international students. They can be relied upon and trusted and can do a lot of the legwork necessary in finding somewhere to live.

6.       Don’t Panic

Still can’t find somewhere to live? It’s not the end of the world – staying in a cheap hostel or on a friend’s sofa for a few weeks can give you some time to find a decent place. The same goes for when your accommodation turns out to be a total disaster. If you’re unhappy- move. It’ll be a great story for later, especially during job interviews. ‘I had this experience where the ceiling kept leaking and I had to move flats, and I had to make all those negotiations in French.’ Pretty inspiring, if you ask me.