Solving the Dilemma of Student Halls vs. Private Accommodations

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Earlier this month, I reminisced a fond memory of receiving a congratulatory email from LSE a year ago. At that time, the biggest chunk of my worry evaporated, but it was just a beginning of an even more exhaustive preparation, such as housing arrangement, visa, and studying the materials before my departure.

As the title suggests, in this post I am going to share my considerations in choosing an accommodation. If you are just about to start an intake this year, I hope you find this information useful.

“Why even bother to think of an accommodation five months before my study?”

In case this question is popping up in your mind while reading this post, let me tell you that arrangement of living in a foreign land needs meticulous assessment. You will live there at least for a year. That will be a place where you wake up every morning and head to take a rest after a long tiring day at the university. You need to be very comfortable with people who will share the same roof with you, so planning ahead is the way to go.

Below is the three questions that you can ask yourself in opting for student halls or private accommodation.

1.    With whom do I want to live?

Do you want to live with other fellow Indonesians or are you opened with new people to live in the same flat? Although you can still live with new people in private housing, students usually prefer to gather their friends as their flatmates. Imagine the perks that you do not have to explain yourself, you do not feel awkward to set up house rules, and you can cook Indonesian cuisine almost every day. Life is good, isn’t it?

Nevertheless, there is also a downside. Living with your fellow countrymen and countrywomen might trap you to the same circle of friends and make you hesitant to befriend other people. Moreover, a friend who lives in a private housing with Indonesian friends told me that you couldn’t habituate yourself speaking in English, which might not be good when you want to improve your English language ability during your stay in ythe country. Another friend of mine, on the other hand, also mentioned that when you lived with those who are not from the same university, their different academic timetables might disrupt your study time.

Unlike private housing, residing in a campus accommodation means you surrender your rights to choose who will share the same flat with you. Sometimes you are lucky, and most of the time you are not. You might feel a bit hesitant to set up house rules, such as ‘who cleans the kitchen and the bathroom?’ Not to mention, people from different countries might have different perspectives on what constitutes as ‘clean’.  Conflict thus is sometimes just inevitable.

However, living with strangers that turn to be your friends can also be an enriching experience. For example, I live in one of the campus’ hall, and my flatmates are from Taiwan, India, South Korea, Uruguay, and Wales. This experience enables me to get to know various worldviews and respect their perspectives. For example, my flatmates and I often discuss issues, such as the conflict in Israel-Palestine or air strikes in Syria. Some of us have contrasting views on this, but we did not take the debates personally. After we argued, we still could finish our Christmas dinner by drinking wine and watching “Love Actually”. Another friend of mine who also lives in the school’s flat even created a weekly rota of cooking signature dishes from their countries of origin. Who doesn’t want to taste foods from various countries?

Had an early Christmas dinner with signature dish from Wales.
(Photo courtesy of Josefhine Chitra)

2.    Do you want to have the accommodation ready by the time you arrive?

If you live in a university hall, you can have it ready by the time you land., whereas, those who choose private houses usually stay at hotels for few days (even few weeks) while wandering around to look for an accommodation. Although you also can have the private rooms ready, people usually ask their friends to do the viewing beforehand.

It all depends on your preference; in my case, I do not like to be in uncertainty, considering the process can take up  tofew weeks. It is  safer to know where I am going to live way before I come. Nonetheless, if you do not trust pictures and prefer to meet the landlord in person, private housing might be better option for you.

3.    What are your priorities in choosing the accommodation?

I remembered when I made a comparison table of various halls that I am interested in. In the left column, I listed all dorms and assessed it against the ranks of my priority on the right column. In my case, price came first, followed by distance to the university, whether it is an undergraduate/ graduate dorm, and self-catered/ catered food. You might have a different preference, so you can reorder or add more priorities on the column. For instance, I did not opt for private housing because usually the price still excludes electricity and internet, the tenants have to choose the service providers and take care of the utility bills tehmselvesAt this point, I did not have much time to take care of these add-ons, so for a pragmatic reason, I chose university hall for better efficiency. Furthermore, I did not want to be in an undergraduate accommodation block because (with no intention of making a stereotype) they are known to have parties almost every week, and it could affect my study time.

On the other hand, for those who value freedom of bringing friends or family to the flat might prefer to stay in a private housing. At some university hall, you have a very limited space for additional persons or sometimes you have to seek permission. If you want to bring guests to sleep over, private housing will be a better option.

All things considered, I found making this table useful because I managed to curate and read lots of information on the website, so this mapping could better situate each hall that met most of my criteria.

One of the perks of living in a private housing, you can invite many friends to your place for a potluck.
(Photo Courtesy of Mirza Annisa Izati)

In conclusion, there is no absolute upside or downside of living in a campus accommodation or private house. Your choice is contingent upon your preference. Also, please be mindful that my experience might speak mostly to a master and single students because those who come with spouse or children have different needs and considerations that lead them to opt for private housing. In certain cases, students bringing their family should spare some extra time to research and make a deal out of an accommodation, because some landlords have strict criteria on whether they accept a small kid or not in their flat.