Finding a place to call home abroad

Overseas-education | Crystal Wu 25 May 2021

Finding a place to live is perhaps one of the most stressful things for newcomers to a city to deal with.

Final year computing student Rosemary Ng helpfully broke it down for her fellow international students in the latest episode of the Student Globetrotters series.

"There are three main types of accommodation for students: college dormitories, private student halls and rented flats or houses," Ng explained. "They are pretty much universal."

College dormitories are student accommodations provided by the university itself, and some of them are located on or near the campus. There are many types of rooms at various price points to choose from, even though the spaces are usually more compact.

"The facilities of the halls are quite comprehensive," said Ng. "There are lots of shared spaces - for example, the common room, study room, games room, laundry room and kitchen."

Housekeeping is usually included for both rooms and shared spaces, but students can borrow appliances like vacuum cleaners to clean their own rooms, as well as radiators and fans, she added.

For student accommodations at her university, the price varies not only with room type, but also location.

For example, the halls near Imperial College London's South Kensington campus will cost more than those further away, like in North Acton. A single room in the North Acton hall costs 180 (HK$1,972) a week and a double room costs about 120 a person .

While students can meet schoolmates more easily in these dormitories, most of the students are usually freshmen and exchange students.

"This is especially true for the UK," said Ng. "In my university, for nonfreshers to live in college dormitories, they have to apply as a hall senior, who is responsible for organizing student events, in order to have their place guaranteed." The main issue for Ng herself, however, is that the rooms are too small and do not have enough storage and wardrobe space.

If you are looking to meet students of different years and from different schools, then a private student hall may be more up your alley.

Ng had not stayed in a private dormitory before, but found that while it was the most expensive choice, it had better facilities and amenities. Much like school-owned dormitories, utility bills are included, so that's one less thing to worry about.

The other difference is that there tend to be fewer social events in private dormitories, so your hallmates feel more like neighbors in this setting.

Ng decided to move into a shared apartment with two friends after her freshman year. "It's essentially renting any available flats on the housing market, so you have tons of choices," she said. "You have the most freedom with this option."

Sharing a three-bedroom and two-bathroom apartment 10 minutes away from campus, Ng and her two flatmates pay a weekly rent of 850. "That's the downside of studying in London. The rent here is quite expensive," Ng said.

An extra 30 has to be paid monthly, as utility bills are not included. "Since you are getting your own place, it comes with more responsibilities." These include apartment hunting, which should take place a few months before moving, and setting up electricity, water and Wi-Fi bill plans.

Ng also met a landlord who charged her for every slight bit of damage to the flat when she moved out, so she advises that students read the contract and tenancy agreement before signing. "But it is essentially adulting 101 and it is good practice to prepare you to step into society and become independent."

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