Accommodation and settling in
Finding accommodation is often one of the biggest worries for students going abroad as it is your responsibility to find it, but there are wide range of options available. You may not have a permanent place to stay when you arrive but you can always book into a hostel or hotel for a few days or even try CouchSurfing to give you time to look and work out the nice areas to live.
Your university may provide some information on accommodation but don’t rely on it. It’s worth contacting your host employer or university to see what they suggest. These are some of the key factors you should consider:
- Distance and transport- to uni, work, town, night life.
- Size - how much space would you like.
- Roommates - do you want to live on your own or share with someone else?
- Location - avoid unsafe areas and seek advice before committing to anything.
- Cost - some accommodation is much cheaper than others so remember your budget.
Halls in Europe are quite different to the ones here as the attitude is more centred towards studying. Rooms tend to vary as much as they do in the UK so if you would like more information as to what your host University provides get in touch with them. There are a few things you should keep in mind such as strict noise restrictions and providing your own kitchen utensils. However, living in halls tends to cost a bit less than private accommodation. In some countries, there is an option to choose private halls which offer a higher spec and are nice but tend to be more expensive. So make sure you’re aware of the good and bad points before accepting a place.
There are many websites and places to help you look for somewhere to stay. Once you arrive, you can check local newspapers or your host university’s notice boards to find a place to live. You could even place an advert but always try and find someone you know or another person to share with.
Make sure you know exactly where and what sort of place you’re looking for as this will narrow your search and save you time. It is quite common to come across studios or 2-bedroom flats whilst abroad. It might be worth asking someone you know who has already been to your host university previously and ask them for any tips. Living in shared accommodation is a fantastic way to improve your language, especially if your flatmates are native speakers.
Living with a family
This option is a great way to learn the culture of another country as well as improving your language by being completely immersed. It is quite popular among those spending the year in a Spanish-speaking country. Living with a family may be more suited to those on a work placement as students’s timetables are more irregular. There are lots of websites to help match you with families, or look for notices once you get to the country. Do keep in mind what you want out of your accommodation.
Prices vary but it may be possible to negotiate in return for English lessons or childcare. You are likely to pay less than you would for private accommodation.
The first thing you’ll probably do is unpack. Spend some time arranging your room and stuff exactly how you like it as it’ll help you settle in and feel more at home. It is normal to feel homesick or out of place during your year abroad but hopefully once settled you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
Go explore the town and your surroundings to find out where everything is situated. It would be good to know routes and timetables buses and trains make so you know how to get to your destination easily. Take a notebook or jot down key information on your phone.
If you’re an Erasmus student, there’ll be a welcome meeting and probably a social which is a great chance to mingle with people. It’s nerve-racking the first time but just be ready to go out there, be chatty, talkative and network with everyone.
If you’re working, see if a colleague or fellow assistant would be up for taking you around and exploring. If you don’t know anyone yet in town then look for a group on Facebook - these groups are formed each year by students just like you to meet up with people in the same area.
Keep in touch with your friends and family back home regularly in the first few weeks. Skype is a great way to keep in contact with them as you can call for free and live video chat.