Home Away from Home: The Quest of Finding (the Best) Student Accommodation

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If you think your mission has been wholly accomplished once you receive your university acceptance letter in your inbox, you are quite mistaken.  Preparing for studies in a foreign country can be cumbersome, and it is best for you to be warned that  an avalanche of things-to-do is on its way to you, fast.   Aside from visa which you obviously need to enter the new country and live semi-permanently there as a student, one of the things which you should also put on the top of your to-do-list is:  finding an accommodation. For international students especially, finding the right place for you is crucial, as you will be living there all the time, unlike some home students who could stay for the weekend at their parents’ house.  This is no easy feat, yet Sarah Teja here will share her tips on finding the best student accommodation which is nary a personal complaint or disappointment.

Start as EARLY as Possible

If you are quite picky when it comes to the place you live in, it would be wise to start accommodation-hunting as soon as possible after you decide to accept an admission offer.  The earlier, the likelier it would be for you to secure a place which you prefer the most. From my own experience, as I applied later than everyone else, it was rather impossible for me to get an accommodation that I personally like.  However, I was still lucky enough not having to go on SpareRooms.co.uk or Unipol (both are websites which specialise in finding alternative accommodations) to find a place to stay. Frankly, the notion of having to live in a non-university accommodation in one’s first year terrifies me, because you are less likely to meet and socialise with other fellow first-year students.

Photo courtesy of the University of Nottingham
Photo courtesy of the University of Nottingham

Knowing what YOU want

The process of finding accommodation might seem a little overwhelming.  If you start early, there are myriad options to choose from.  Prior to conducting an actual search, spare some time to jot down the things that you are looking for in an accommodation, such as proximity to campus, distance to a supermarket/convenience store, availability of en-suite room types (having experienced the horror of sharing bathrooms with an entire floor in boarding school, living in an en-suite room feels like heaven), etc.  Now that you know what you are after, use it as a guide to narrow down the options in no time.  So, leave all of your worries behind and the only thing that’s left to do is to pray.

Things get slightly more complicated when you are thinking to share a house with your circle of friends.  Even though it is possible to share a flat with your friends in a university-owned accommodation, usually on their second year of university in the UK, students opt for private housing (you no longer deal with university, but directly with agents or landlords) as prices are generally lower.  However, the quest of finding a house that meets everyone’s criteria is such a painstaking process, at least from my experience.  Not only that a lot of time and energy went to waste, but also it might create tensions in groups.  So, it was not a surprise that some would drop out as they wish to be excluded from the mess.  Despite all of it, don’t let anyone else pressurise you to do something that you don’t want as you are chipping in your money too.

In the case of choosing private housing

Prices of university-owned accommodations are often steep, and this may explain why some students opt for private housing.  After finding a reliable student housing agent, contact them for a viewing, as it is important to physically inspect the conditions of the house you may end up living in.  Alternatively, if you are abroad and is in no condition to physically view the rooms yourself, ask the agent to take you on a tour of the place through a Skype call.

Another thing to keep in mind when you look for a private housing is to find out whether the price is inclusive of bills or not.  If possible, go for the one with all bills inclusive (water, gas, electricity, and internet), because rents exclusive of bills are just asking for future troubles. For example, landlords can be sneaky and try to rip you and your mates off by overcharging the bills.  However, if you have no choice but to get a house exclusive of bills, try to avoid big and old houses, as they use up more energy and therefore cost you more money.

Make an INFORMED Decision

In this age where the use of Internet is ubiquitous, the fact that one has failed to make an informed decision on their accommodation-hunting process, to me is simply unfathomable.  Though believe it or not, I know someone who did just that.  Most universities will have a section on their websites that provides information on choices of accommodation that are being offered by them.  Or even better, some would put up a comparison table comprises of prices, facilities, room size, location, and so on, which comes in handy (you don’t have to open millions of tabs to compare one hall of residence and another).  If you want to go an extra mile in finding information for a specific accommodation, try reading some online forums such as The Student Room (UK) where you may find others’ opinions on said accommodation.

To conclude, despite all of your efforts, as annoying as it might be sometimes you just cannot get everything that you want.  In this case, don’t frown, because university is much more than just that.