Once you’ve been accepted onto a study programme in Europe, it’s a good idea to plan your accommodation as soon as you can. The best place to start is your university or college – ask them for advice to help you find a suitable place to live.
Student residence halls and flats
Many universities and colleges in Europe offer accommodation to students in a student residence hall or block of flats. There are usually communal areas, such as a lounge or TV room, a library, or gardens where you can meet fellow students, so it's a great way to make friends.
Some residence halls and flats have canteens offering hot and cold meals, or shared kitchens where you can cook your own food.
You'll usually have your own room, but may also be offered accommodation where you share with one or more students (of the same gender).
Rooms are typically ready-equipped with a bed, wardrobe, cupboard and desk. Some may provide blankets, towels, curtains, cooking utensils, Wi-fi access and more - check what is and isn’t provided. Some rooms have an en-suite toilet and wash facilities, whereas for others you may have communal facilities.
Most student residence halls and flats in Europe are for both men and women, but you can often find single-sex halls and flats too if you prefer.
“Dorms are usually the place where international students are accommodated. If you want to improve your (mostly English) language skills and participate in all kinds of intercultural party life, that would be a perfect match for you… My best advice is to start looking for accommodation just after you send your application to your dream university. To find even a tiny room in a big city can turn into a nightmare if is not done beforehand.”
Daria Tarusina from Ukraine, University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt in Germany
Many students choose to live in private accommodation. You could rent a place on your own, or share with other students. Sharing can help to reduce your costs and can be sociable. Typically, you have your own bedroom but share the bathroom, kitchen and living areas with others.
Look out for new ways of living too – for example, living with a local host family or in an ‘intergenerational living’ project, where elderly people rent out a room in their flat or house to a student.
It's best to ask your university if they can recommend private accommodation options to you. They may have a list of reputable property companies. Many student unions have websites to help you find rooms too.
When booking private accommodation, it is strongly recommended that you check the contract (and ideally the accommodation) thoroughly before you sign and pay. If in doubt, ask your university or college for advice.
“The Erasmus Student Network offers good networking opportunities for incoming students, which you may find helpful. You can contact other students and ask for practical information and advice, plus you might also find other students who want to share apartments.”
Elina Mavrogiorgou, IKY/ Erasmus+ Hellenic National Αgency in Greece
“I live in a shared apartment near the university with a PhD student from Israel. The location is great and we have a lot of space in our apartment. It's also nice that I don't have to share the kitchen with 10 other people, although living in a corridor can be a lot more fun. When looking for housing, it's good to start as early as possible. I joined Facebook groups and started queuing for a student apartment as soon as I found out I was accepted.”
Leonilla Koskivaara from Finland, Umeå University in Sweden
Deciding where to live
It's important to choose accommodation where you feel happy, comfortable and safe. When choosing, do your research – ask questions such as
- how close is the accommodation to my place of study?
- are there good public transport links?
- is the area safe?
- is it quiet enough for studying and sleeping?
- what do the accommodation costs include - and what other costs will I need to pay?
- if food is provided – does it cater for vegetarian/halal/kosher/other special diets?
Costs for accommodation vary significantly between different cities and countries in Europe. Ask your chosen university or college for a guide to typical accommodation costs in the area.
Whichever option you choose, make sure that you find out exactly what is and isn’t included in the fee. For example, does the fee include food, heating, electricity, Wi-fi, insurance, car parking, laundry, cleaning and other items? Is there an administration charge to book the accommodation and sign the contract? Is the accommodation fully equipped or do you need to buy cooking utensils, bedding, furniture etc?
“I live in a flat share with one other student, one person doing an internship and another working in Stockholm. I really like the balance we've created in the flat share - we're like a little family now. We all get along perfectly, cook together and go out for drinks as a group. Register with student housing agencies as soon as possible. Dorms are generally much cheaper than searching for accommodation on your own. If looking for accommodation online through groups or advertisements, be very aware of scams and fake posts.”
Alexander Browne from the UK, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden
“To prevent any headaches when looking for accommodation; be honest about yourself and your living style, set a fair budget for the area you are searching in and give yourself plenty of time to find something. Nothing in life is easy, but with a little persistence, you’ll find something great for your needs and wants!”
Amie Stevense from the UK, Free University of Berlin in Germany
Header image: © iStock/puhimec, 2019