How to Pick the Perfect Student Accommodation

Author: Ana Alibegova

One of the most important questions you need to deal with once you decide to work or study abroad is the question of accommodation. The number of options available is vast, from student dormitories to renting an apartment. Finding the perfect place to stay at is not an easy job at all, because all these places have their own advantages and disadvantages.

You got the scholarship and now what? The next step is finding a place to stay, a process that is not as easy as it seems, having in mind that all of us want to find a nice, not too small, centrally located place that at the same time is practical and cheap. When you go to study or work abroad, you are provided with accommodation options to pick from. All of them have positive and negative sides, and different places are suitable for different people. If you are more partying-oriented, then the perfect place for you would be a student dormitory. For the ones putting emphasis on their privacy, renting an apartment is the best option. Here are some suggestions.

Renting an apartment

This option is most suitable for the ones that are going to work. If you want to have some peace and quiet and a nice place you can rest in after a hard day of work, this is the right choice. In your apartment, you can arrange your daily routine; you can do whatever you want, without being bothered by anyone. You can enjoy your freedom. But when you close your eyes at night, you may start feeling alone and wish to have a friend beside you, who will comfort you when feelings of homesickness are overbearing. This could change if you decide to share an apartment, a popular way, especially in the Western countries, of cutting the costs of living and saving some money. The so-called “Wohngemeinschaften” communities or WG for short are very popular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where more people share one apartment, having common rooms such as a toilette, a shower, a kitchen, etc. Some scholars find this to be a social phenomenon, which has its roots in the 19th century.

If you are going abroad for the first time, you can use the “Mitwohnzentrale” service to find an apartment. The service has a lot to offer, from single well furnished rooms to luxurious houses. Through the service you will be able to find people who are already renting an apartment, but for some reason are not staying in it and they are renting it to a third person. This can be a good thing if you are doing an internship and if you are staying just for a couple of months. The opportunities are more than ample, you just need to find what is best for you.
For instance, Madhura from India, currently living in Bonn, says living in a flat has lot of advantages, but only…

“Only if  you are with your boyfriend. If you are alone or your boyfriend is somewhere else… then of course, dorm rocks!”

Denny, doing an internship in Cologne adds:

“I wouldn’t really recommend a flat as a good solution because you can end up feeling lonelier than you actually are, that was the case with me. You need a time to get used to everything and coming in an empty apartment isn’t really making things easier. But then later on when you meet people you can have a friend over, or throw parties because you are the owner of your time and space, and you can keep your privacy but also get around your friends when you want to. Plus, you can always offer accommodation when someone is in need of it.”

Living with a host family

If you are one of those people who can easily adjust to a new environment, but at the same time quite often misses his/her family, living with a host family is not a bad idea at all. You can have your own room and privacy, but at the same time you will have somebody to talk to, to help you, to give you advice on what to do and what you should not miss seeing in the city. Usually the rooms in the host families are well equipped; some of them even have a TV, WiFi, a fridge and a small kitchen. Moreover, living with a host family has a lot of advantages: clean blankets, having your own shower, hygiene on the highest level and also some people to talk to and help you when you are feeling alone. In addition, it is much cheaper than renting a whole apartment. However, sometimes it might be difficult for people to find common ground with the family, especially if they limit you in terms of when you should come back home, when you are allowed to use the shower, or that you need to turn off the music after 9 pm. Ana (22) from Macedonia shares her experience:

“Living in a host family can be a really good thing, if you can get along well with the people. They will help you do the cleaning, they will suggest sightseeing places, sometimes they will even introduce you to their friends and will help you find some friends in the neighborhood. My experience is quite positive. Although the family has lived a bit outside of the city centre, still it was cool because the land lady always helped me with my homework.”

A student life in a dormitory

Party, gossiping, a lot of new people, fun, crowd… exclusive components of a student dormitory. If you prefer to meet lot of new people during your stay, then a student dormitory is the right choice for you. The dorm is the right place for open-minded people, eager to get to know different cultures and traditions and live in a multicultural environment. Living in a student’s dorm is the cheapest option. You only need to have an ID card that confirms you are student or, in some cases – intern, and to pay monthly allowance from 200 up to 400 euros. Dorms are different across Europe, but most of them have modest furniture, common toilets, showers and a kitchen.

The hygiene and the noise are the biggest disadvantages of the dormitories, but still the basic needs can be met. In most European countries, loud noise late at night is not permitted, so in some cases it can turn out that dorms are nice and peaceful places to stay in. Dorms are good, both for students and interns; students have a lot of colleagues to share books and studying materials with, and interns meet a bunch of new people they can have coffee or dinner with. Usually the process of applying for a student room is run by a representative of the student body organization and can be a little complicated.

Still, most students have a positive experience living in a dormitory. Nemanja from Serbia explains:

“When you live in a dorm, you have a room of 11 meters square, you have to share the kitchen with other people, you don’t have toilette in your room. Although all that bothers me, I enjoy being in the “Riemenschneiderstrasse 2” dorm,  because we have so much fun, no matter what nationality we are and because I can always borrow some food from my neighbours :). It’s also much cheaper than renting an apartment”, Nemanja concludes.

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