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Where to stay during your time abroad

Posted: 9th July 2018 09:46

Figuring out where to stay is one of the most important and stressful decisions for your time abroad. Whether participating in a homestay, finding your own individual accommodation, or going directly through a university or student accommodation option, there are benefits and challenges to each choice. Different programmes and universities will provide and suggest different options depending on the structure of the individual programme or the location of where you are living.  However, understanding how different options work and the best tips for securing and navigating those options is a good starting point for any student about to live abroad.

Homestays

Homestays can be the most rewarding option for students living abroad, particularly if studying a foreign language. Not only do homestays immerse students in a foreign language and help them to improve their spoken language, but there is an unparalleled cultural experience that you can only acquire by living with a local family. While doing a homestay can at times be challenging, it is an unforgettable opportunity.

Top Tips

Take time to fill out any surveys or questionnaires.

Beforehand, universities and study abroad programmes will usually send you a survey or questionnaire about your living habits, personal preferences, and personality. Spend time carefully and honestly answering these questions with as much detail as possible so that you can be paired with a family that matches your needs.

Be flexible.

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it is important to be as flexible as possible when doing a homestay. Routines will undoubtedly be different from your own or what you are accustomed to, but rather than being frustrated by small differences and what may seem like minor inconveniences, you will make your transition to living with your host family much smoother if you are willing to be flexible.

Communicate.

Even with a language barrier, it is important to communicate clearly and honestly as best you can with your host family. While you want to remain polite and flexible, don’t hesitate to voice any concerns or hesitations to your host family so that you can, together, find a solution. Remember, your host family wants you to make the most of your time, too, and appreciate you taking the time to communicate!

Join in!

Although it is important to make time for yourself and relax while abroad, when you are participating in a homestay, try pushing yourself to join in different family activities and outings, even if they may not be your favourite choices. Whether going to a new movie or attending a family reunion out of town for the weekend, accept invitations to do new things and spend time with your host family.

University or Independent Accommodation

Some programmes or universities recommend staying in student or university accommodation while studying abroad. In certain places, such as the United States, this can be a great option to really immerse yourself in the student culture. Alternatively, you may choose to find your own independent accommodation to truly test the waters of living in a new and different culture.

Top Tips

Research!

Perhaps an obvious tip, it is important to do thorough research before choosing any accommodation. It can be tempting to simply choose the first place you see and like, but take the extra time to visit or investigate other housing options just to be sure you didn’t miss any other great options. Try making your own personal spreadsheet or pro/con list to compare and contrast the different possibilities.

Take time to fill out any surveys or questionnaires.

Like with homestays, it is important to allow yourself plenty of time to outline your personal preferences and, particularly if you are going to have roommates or flatmates, details about your living habits and personality so that the university or student accommodation service can find you the best fit. Some questions may seem silly or frivolous, but answering them honestly will make your experience abroad much better.  

Talk with potential flatmates in advance.

Alternatively, you may be asked to choose your own flatmates if you are choosing to find your own accommodation independently. Whether you Skype your potential flatmates when still at home or meet with them in person when you arrive, try to have a face-to-face meeting with the people you may be living with to make sure it will be a good match. While emailing or phoning might give you a good idea, it’s important to actually meet up beforehand if possible!

Discuss options with past students and host universities.

If you can, try to get in touch with a student who had done the same programme or lived in the same city as you before—they may have some good advice about the best neighbourhoods or buildings that can help inform your decision. Likewise, residence life offices at different universities may have ideas and advice to help you find the best accommodation.

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