Picking the right student housing option is one of the most crucial things to do before studying or staying abroad. Each of them bears different pros and cons for different personalities and can influence your daily life significantly. This second part of the three-part series goes over the Off-Campus Housing Options for students.
It is way harder to get a spot in an off-campus accommodation compared to the on-campus alternative. However, living together with locals and ideally speaking the local language is the only way to get the “full” going abroad experience. There are endless opportunities for you to choose from, and you have more power over who you want to live with and where. Just be aware that there are a lot of scammers out there, too. Never transfer any funds before signing a contract in person or receiving the keys.
This article goes over the main differences when living off-campus vs. on-campus. For more general information on living in flat shares or single apartments, refer to the first part.
Just like flat shares on campus, the off-campus alternative is excellent if you are an open and outgoing person who likes to live in a community. The main difference is the price: flat shares off campus can be by far the cheapest housing option. However, they might be pricy, too, which is the bittersweet beauty of it. When looking for off-campus housing, you can end up anywhere from staying in an industrial loft, floating home, old-town house, refurbished school, or just a regular apartment. The options are endless. The same goes for the number of flat mates: anything from one to 50 people or more (co-living or co-housing) is possible. In general, it is somewhat expected to spend time together (e.g., cooking, playing board games, partying, etc.). If you chose to stay in flat shares, don’t isolate yourself by staying in your room all the time.
In contrast to staying on campus, you somewhat get to choose who you live with. Usually, you get an excellent first impression when visiting the place and talking to your potential flat mates. Sometimes the advertisement alone gives you enough information to know whether you’d like to be part of the community or not. The same goes for the area. If you favor a specific area of the city, you can specifically look for apartments there. Living off-campus should also be your choice if you prefer to live with locals or simply people outside your university. This might give you a better local experience compared to staying on campus with all the international students.
Getting a nice room in a trendy neighborhood in a popular destination can be a nightmare. So plan in advance and take your time. Sometimes, there are hundreds of applicants, scammers trying to rip you off, or people simply not responding to your texts. In destinations like Berlin, an invitation to visit the place is already a great success. Being chosen by two or more flat shares is pure luxury. Don’t be too picky when it comes to the number of people and apartment location. As long as your potential flat mates are friendly, the price fair, and the commute not too bad, you should be fine for a semester or two.
Private single apartments offer the highest degree of privacy possible since they are located off-campus in smaller sized buildings (at least in Europe). This is great if you need a lot of me-time, wish to focus on your work, or want to draw a clear line between your social and academic life. However, meeting new people and participating in the social life on campus is somewhat more difficult, yet not impossible.
When it comes to the price, you should end up somewhere in the upper-midrange compared to other alternatives in the city or country. In general, privately offered apartments are somewhat hard to get since there are usually many applicants. Put some effort into your writing when reaching out to the landlords and make a friendly first impression when visiting the place.
Want to save money and live like a local? Sounds too good to be true? Living in a homestay offers just that. It is a great way to become part of a (real) local family and learn more about the traditions, habits, food, culture, and so on. In general, homestays are highly recommended for people who prioritize learning more about the country or improving their skills in the locally spoken language. You can find homestay pretty much anywhere in the world through websites or social media groups. The costs vary significantly on the terms and are usually negotiated between the guest and the host upon arrival (from free to AirBnB prices). However, the original idea behind homestays for students (not tourists!) is to enable social and intercultural exchange at a reasonably low price. In that case, you are somewhat bound to the family and usually well integrated into their daily lives.
Housing or rental companies can offer you pretty much any type of accommodation: flat shares, single apartments, or single rooms. However, just like any other company or business, their main goal is to make a profit. Therefore, their housing options will come at a higher price point compared to private alternatives. Also, there are many rules to follow. In general, the rooms are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis whenever there are any vacancies and are easy to get. Basically, you are paying for fair service, good communication, and a somewhat trustworthy landlord. However, you don’t get to chose who you live with, and the flat shares are just randomly thrown together. Also, these places don’t really make you feel at home compared to private flat shares or on-campus student apartments.