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 article goes over the most common student housing options so you can decide which one is best for you personally. This first part, of a three part series, covers: On Campus Student Housing.
University housing options have one huge advantage: They are offered by the most trustworthy landlord you can find anywhere in the world. Your uni will never kick you out of a sudden, increase the rent randomly, keep your deposit, or charge you extra for what you thought was free. Can you say that about your parents? Also, your uni will always take care of any issues or damages in and around their properties. Is it always the cheapest option? No! Are there many rules to follow? Yes! But choosing university housing is by far the most convenient way to go. Especially abroad, in a country where you don’t know the language really well, it can be hard to communicate with landlords or get your deposit back.
On-campus housing is fantastic for many other reasons, too! First, instead of wasting time on public transport every single day, the only thing you need to do is getting up and crossing the street. This is great to go back home for a quick nap, lunch break, or whatever. Second, you don’t need to pack a heavy bag with all your stuff like books, laptops, and food since you can get these things whenever you need them from your room. Third, a lot is happening around campus. Living on-campus means being close to all kinds of events, student bars, and cheap restaurant options (social life). On-campus housing equals convenience.
Universities usually set up quite some rules to follow in their accommodations. In doing so, they aim to reduce the risks of any damages to their properties or equipment, underage drinking or drinking in general, sexual harassment, safety hazards caused by fire or electricity, and many more. Always check the rules before applying for housing, so you know what to expect. Especially when staying in housing options that don’t have access to any kitchen (dorms), you are required to purchase a meal plan for the cafeteria, which can end up being super expensive! Also, all on-campus options are usually more expensive than comparable alternatives off-campus offered by private landlords or housing companies.
There is a short and precise article dedicated to the tradeoff between cost and privacy. Check out how much privacy you get for your bucks here.
Student apartments are standard all over the world and come in all forms and sizes. Typically you live together with around four people from your university who all have separate rooms in the flat. All other spaces, like the bathroom, kitchen, and living area, are shared. There are larger apartments with six or eight people, too. Staying in a student apartment is excellent if you are an open and outgoing person who likes to be around others. It is also an easy way of making new friends right away. This is particularly helpful if you are new in a city or on a study abroad program. You can also split the household chores and save money by cooking together. Another advantage is that everybody contributes something to the household, like a Netflix account, nice TV, kitchen utensils and equipment, or the like. This reduces your cost not only at the beginning but throughout the entire stay in the apartment. Finally, living with others gives you a “home away from home” feeling, which many young people appreciate. All that comes with a price tag: mid-size student apartments are usually one of the most expensive options to go for.
On the downside, living with others and sharing common spaces is a challenge in itself, too: it involves a lot of communication, respect for each other, everybody sticking to the same rules, and most importantly, everybody cleaning up after themselves (kitchen & bathroom). So it would be best if you respect other people’s needs and habits. Also, you should be able to speak up for yourself if something bothers you. Otherwise, it is hard to feel at home in your apartment, which is the last thing you want. Living in an apartment shouldn’t be your first choice if you need a lot of me-time and prefer your privacy in your room all day. In that case, consider staying in a single room instead. Finally, it is slightly harder to focus on your academics with many young people around all day.
“Don’t you want to make friends?”. Questions like this might come your way when telling others about your wish to live by yourself. But preferring to stay in a single room/apartment can have many other reasons than only being a somewhat introverted person. Even extroverts love being by themselves sometimes.
First and foremost, single housing options are the best way to stay in your comfort zone and be the king of the castle: No need to be ashamed for watching Netflix all day, getting up late, eating out a lot, or having your own day-and-night rhythm. You don’t even have to talk to anyone if you don’t feel like it. This degree of freedom is especially attractive for people who prefer to focus on their academics, internships, or research projects. Besides that, some students don’t feel like partying every other day anymore and favor a relatively quiet and peaceful home. This especially applies to master or graduate students.
Generally, there are two different types of single student housing options. First, there is a “single room”. Living in a single room usually means sharing the bathroom and kitchen with the entire dorm or students from some floors. Of course, these common areas have an adequate size to fit most students during peak times. Even though it sounds like a massive version of the above-mentioned student apartments, living in a single room gives you all the privacy and me-time you’ll ever need. Second, there is a “single apartment”. As you can guess, an apartment comes with its own bathroom/shower and kitchen area. But there might be exceptions or alterations to that in different countries and universities, so always double-check.
Living by yourself puts you in charge of everything: cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, and cooking. As a result, you have higher costs both when moving in and throughout the whole stay. Especially when living in a single apartment with an own kitchen, you’ll have to stock up on pretty much everything from pots and pants over spices to dishwashing liquid. A high degree of freedom and privacy also makes it harder to get to know many people. However, it is still reasonably easy since there are still many people around all day: in class, campus, hangout areas, coffee shops, laundry rooms, and so on.
Besides the benefits of having a trustworthy landlord and usually living near the campus, you are paying for privacy. Single apartments (especially in Scandinavia) are by far the most expensive option to go for (high-upper range). The costs for single rooms vary significantly with the building’s size and age, location in the city, overall equipment in the rooms, accessibility (24/7 or not), a lobby with a security guard, services like laundry rooms and printers, and furthermore. Pricewise a single room is an upper-midrange housing option. However, they can end up being anywhere from ridiculously cheap to super luxurious.
Yes, agreeing to share the same room with a person you’ve never seen before is a massive step outside your comfort zone. Just considering it shows confidence, openness, and a give-and-take attitude. But let’s start with the basics here.
Shared rooms come in all sorts of layouts and setups. The only thing all shared rooms have in common is that they provide a place to sleep for at least two people. Other than that, they may or may not offer the following: ensuite bathroom, ensuite toilet, small fridge, tea maker, coffee machine, or microwave. Shared rooms barely ever come with a kitchen area. Therefore, you will have to cook in a shared kitchen, eat in the cafeteria, or go out to eat.
Living with someone in a small room that some people refer to as a “shoebox” may initially be challenging. Drastically speaking, you won’t have the same level of privacy as before. That is why sharing a room involves some level of communication, arrangements, and the highest respect for the other person’s needs. For example, you should agree on a time when one person can turn off the lights. Ideally, this goes without asking for permission every day because it gets annoying after a couple of days. You may also want to agree on who uses the bathroom first in the morning (if you guys have your own) to avoid someone running late for class.
Ask each other about your plans each week or at least if something special comes up that requires extra planning. Talking and sharing plans helps you understand each other better and adjust your behavior correspondingly. Suppose you have an important exam, you don’t want your roommate to invite friends over the night before. Or imagine your roommate going out of town for the weekend without you knowing about it in advance. This could’ve been the chance to invite that special someone in your life and enjoy some real privacy for a couple of nights. So always talk to each other to know what’s up.
You won’t have the same privacy level as before but have to accept another person in your life. Having a roommate around is your new level of privacy or me-time. And believe it or not, you get used to it super quickly. After a couple of weeks, you won’t even think about it anymore. And after moving out you’ll miss your roommate 😉
Generally speaking, sharing a room is the cheapest option to stay on-campus and a great experience in itself. However, it isn’t actually cheap since you still have the advantages of living on-campus and all the benefits of having your university as your landlord (trust, service, etc.). Sharing a room is, therefore, a midrange housing option. Ultimately, sharing a room with someone makes you spending more time outside the room, which is a good thing.
No, but it doesn’t hurt. However, I never hang out with my roommate, and we got along very well. We both had completely different classes, interests, and groups of friends. But we respected and were highly considerate of each other. In the afternoon or at night, we had an occasional small talk or exchanged our plans and experiences during the study abroad program. Not more, not less.
One of the many misconceptions about university housing is that all options are on-campus. Especially in major cities with fast-growing universities and neighborhoods, there is no way to extend the campus limits any further. That is why many universities have built several accommodations in the city outskirts or less densely populated areas. Usually, this is where more space is available at a lower cost. So when applying for student housing at your university, you should always check their options in detail and, if possible, select your preferences. In the end, usually, you will only get one single offer that you can either accept (by paying a fee/deposit) or turn down.
As an example, you see the locations in Stockholm, Sweden, offered by the KTH (yellow dot) below. Some of which require commutes of up to 45 min. by public transport.
Living off-campus has many advantages, too. Just out of necessity, you will get to know the city you live in more than people who stay on campus. It can also be cheaper to live in the outskirts for two reasons. First, the rent might be less expensive compared to on-campus housing. After all, you have to commute at least twice a day, so the university has to compensate for that. Second, there might be cheaper supermarkets and stores in the outskirts for people with smaller incomes. In contrast, there are fancier options and many restaurants within the city center for people with higher incomes or tourists. So if you don’t want to spend a lot of money in health food stores or smaller “city versions” of regular supermarkets, consider living in the outskirts. At least don’t be disappointed but think about all the advantages if you don’t end up on campus 🙂