Studying in the UK as an international or exchange student can be the experience of a lifetime, with the exciting educational possibilities that come with it. However, there are many aspects to consider before moving away to study, such as travel insurance, visa documents, and crucially, plans for student accommodation.
In this article, we will explain what accommodation options are available to international students in the UK and what you should bear in mind when considering these options. We will also provide you with some handy tips to help you get the best experience when you’re studying far away from home.
Accommodation options for international exchange students
University halls of residence
For many, university accommodation might seem the most obvious route to go down as an international student. University halls of residence tend to be safe for students and the place of study is usually easy to travel to. Additionally, the accommodation contract agreements are designed with the length of study and term times in mind. Often there are halls of residence specifically for international and exchange students.
The downfalls to living in campus accommodation are that the housing is usually shared with a number of other students and for many campus residences, you cannot choose who you live with. For young, sociable students, this could be desirable for forming new friendships away from home. Whereas, for more mature students or anyone needing a quiet environment to study or for more cleanliness and privacy may be well suited to living in halls of residence.
Homestay with a host family
Choosing to live with a host family is often an affordable and pleasant way to spend your time as a foreign student. A host family residence will often come with a private room, and the lodgings tend to be quieter, peaceful and more hygienic than student housing—although this isn’t always the case, and it is sometimes a gamble with who the host family is.
Some host families may agree to a tenancy that suits your study period and requirements, whilst others might be less flexible. Transport may also be more of a concern than campus living, as many host families are not living near university buildings. They may even live away from direct transport links which will pose a challenge without being able to use a car.
However, if you anticipate that you might want to come home late, be noisy, or host parties at the weekend you will want to avoid a homestay.
Short-stay private rented accommodation
Another good option as an international student is short-stay private rented housing. Short-stay rents can make better financial sense because the letting agreement can fit your period of visitation. Many short-stay private rentals will provide you with some amount of flexibility too, allowing you to choose or extend the length of your visit accordingly.
Most short-stay private housing will also provide you with a greater degree of privacy when compared to student halls or a homestay. As well as this, private renting will often be more spacious than a campus single room. Always check the location and access to transport, as some private rental accommodation might be somewhat out of the way.
Choosing your accommodation
Location and transport
Is the property near the campus where you will be studying? If not, how easy is it to access and what is the public transport like? It is also important to consider how easy it is to get around the town and city. If you are studying in Durham and considering accommodation, Mansion Student offers residents of Ernest Place a free bus pass.
How much are you willing to spend on your rent? If affording a place is a struggle, it will likely impact your experience. At the same time, if you choose somewhere with cheaper rent, you may have to compromise on the location and benefits. Privately rented accommodation with Mansion Student maybe slightly more expensive than student housing or halls of residence, but the quality of living is much higher with the added benefit that all your bills are included so there will be no unexpected costs.
Are you hoping to stay in one place for the duration of your visit? If so, always make sure your contract matches the length you require to avoid any stress of having to search for accommodation again or extend your contract when your tenancy agreement runs out. Most accommodation providers offer a minimum of a six-month contract and may require you to agree on a tenancy length of either 45 or 51 weeks.
Shared or single accommodation
Do you want to live alone in privacy, or would you enjoy the sociability of living with other people? Consider what type of person you want to live with, and whether you would feel comfortable sharing a bathroom or if you would prefer an ensuite room.
To avoid unwanted surprises, always arrange a viewing of any accommodation before you make a final decision. Make sure to book your viewings well in advance of your visit to make sure you find the right accommodation ahead of when you need it.
You will quite possibly need to view your accommodation virtually before you travel to the UK, with many student accommodation providers offering 360 tours and videos like our Ernest Place accommodation in Durham.
Studying abroad can involve its own unique challenges, especially if you are not exactly sure where you will be living. Any unwanted stresses can be avoided by giving yourself plenty of time to figure out your living situation before your trip.
Speak to your university’s student services for advice: They may be able to put you in touch with a landlord or property service or help you network with others to find accommodation.
Finalise your accommodation before travelling: This is the most important pre-arrival task. You do not want to be homeless when you arrive.
Familiarise yourself with the area: Before you move to the town or city where you will be living, use social media and other resources to get to know the area, its culture, services, nightlife, transport, etc.
Consider all your living costs: Rent is only one aspect of your living costs. Some towns and cities differ greatly in living costs. Make sure you have calculated how much it will cost you for transport, food and bills. Check to see if there are any ways you can save money if needed.
Renting privately with Mansion Student
At Mansion Student we understand what makes student living so special. We offer private rental accommodation which features stylish, spacious and high-spec bedrooms with great privacy as well as communal areas with modern amenities.
We also make sure that our accommodation is in the best possible location for a student, with our sites such as Mansion Tyne in Newcastle being situated close to the university while being among bustling local areas with shops, bars and restaurants.
We always pay close attention to the little details as well as the big ones. We know that the little things soon become considerable and defining factors when living somewhere. As such, we will always make sure to be sensitive to all your needs as a student travelling a long way away from home.
Can you rent on a student visa?
Yes, you can rent on a student visa but there are some things that you will need to consider. You will need an offer to study at a university in the UK, proof of funds for your tuition fees and additional living costs. You may also need to set up a UK bank account. Read more about accommodation considerations for international students here.
How can international students find host families for homestays?
There may be a number of different services that recruit host families within the UK so search for host families in the area you are moving to and make sure to go through an accredited organisation such as Airbnb or Homestays to ensure that you are housed safely.