How I Found the Best Study Abroad Housing

Diana Parkhouse

Written by  November 12, 2015

Hints: Start early and don't forget to read the fine print.

Prior to the exciting—yet mildly daunting—experience of packing my life into three suitcases and moving to the beautiful city of Bologna, I managed to secure my accommodation for my year in Italy. I can safely say this was probably one of the best decisions I made before moving abroad.

Like me, you may have been told by your teachers or study abroad coordinators that it is best to stay in a hostel for a week or two while searching for permanent accommodation. Yes, you can do this, but I haven’t yet spoken to a single student that has told me this method was easy or ideal—on the contrary, it caused them a great deal of stress. Some of my friends were even living out of their suitcase in a hostel for a whole month or more before they could move into permanent accommodation.

Uprooting your life to move to another country can be nerve-racking enough, so finding accommodation prior to the move can make your experience far less stressful.

The initial stages of uprooting your life at home to move to another country can be nerve-racking enough for most people, so finding accommodation prior to the move, or at least finding several available possibilities can make your experience far less stressful. This, in turn, helps you to settle in more quickly and comfortably and provides you with more time to find your way around the city, while having fun before prioritizing your studies.

This method is especially helpful if you are moving to a small city, as of course there is bound to be less available accommodation, so in this situation the sooner you find something the better.

Though finding accommodation can be a stressful and frustrating process at the best of times, never mind when it’s in another country, I would still recommend trying to find a permanent place to stay beforehand. To help I have created a list of a few things to keep in mind:

Start early

I would recommend beginning your search during June/July, this is when the most posts will appear online. In Italy’s case, the advertisements anytime before these dates are fairly fruitless.

Location is key

Let’s face it, if the walk to the university campus is more than half an hour away and public transport isn’t great, it’s unlikely you’re going to make it to many of your lectures. So be sure to look for somewhere that is close enough to your studies and grocery stores.

Another issue that I encountered was class location. In my case, some of the courses I chose initially turned out to be at another more obscure campus about an hour away on a train. If your university is comprised of several different campuses, be sure you’re picking a place near to where you’ll be studying.

It is equally important to check whether the neighbourhood is safe and secure, so you may want to do a little background research on the area first before getting too invested in a property.

Flatmates or not?

If you’re not fluent in the language then I would highly recommend finding a place with people that are native speakers. This will ensure you get plenty of practice and your confidence will grow immensely. This will help especially if you’re living in a small city where there tends to be less tourism and therefore more people will only speak the native tongue.

Always read the small print

If you do decide to secure accommodation before the move, make sure that prior to sending a deposit you have read the contract carefully. Contracts can be a long, boring read but it’s better to know exactly what the conditions are; for instance if bills are included, how many months the contract stands for, and so on.

Ask questions

I understand that it may be slightly concerning to send a large deposit over to a landlord you’ve never met, for a house you’ve never seen in person, but don’t be afraid to ask for more pictures or even a Skype call with the owner so you can have a virtual tour of the accommodation first.

And, specific to Italy. . .

I’m not sure how true this is of other countries, but most of the accommodation I found in Bologna was advertised as "doppia stanza" (or "double room"), meaning two people per room. If you’re someone that likes privacy, then be sure to try and find accommodation as soon as possible as the stanza singola tends to vanish pretty quickly!

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Sophie Demetriades

Sophie Demetriades has begun her third year with the University of Leicester by joining the Erasmus program to study in Bologna, Italy for a year abroad. Her classes at the Università di Bologna include English Literature and Italian language.

Website: sophiedemetriades.wordpress.com

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