For me, the decision of whether to move into halls or into a shared house was easy; it was made for me. My exchange institution (McMaster University, Canada) informed us quite early on that they weren’t providing accommodation and we had to seek our own. They provided a couple of resources, namely the McMaster Housing Board and some privately owned student accommodation tower, but that was it.
I decided that a shared house worked best for me, so I looked on the housing board but soon found that people just use Facebook for everything nowadays, so if you’re looking for houses on your exchange your best bet will be to Facebook search the uni’s name along with “Houses” or something similar; you’re sure to find something.
In Canada, a lot of student houses come unfurnished, which works well for Canadian students as they already have their things. I couldn’t take a bed over in hand luggage unfortunately, so I ordered some furniture from IKEA to arrive shortly after I arrived. This seems expensive, but housing in Canada is a lot cheaper; my house here with all bills included is roughly the same per month ($440, approx. £258) as my house was in Leeds last year with all bills excluded (£276), so it doesn’t work out too bad.
Still, after having some trouble where my mattress wasn’t delivered, and being told I have to wait three weeks for a replacement (I’m sleeping on an airbed in the bed frame at the time of writing this) I would recommend looking for a furnished room. It’s a lot less hassle.
The good thing I’ve found about moving into a shared house is that I’m with Canadian students. Some friends I know that are studying abroad seem to have got stuck in the “Exchange Student Bubble” and don’t mix much with local students. I’ve a good mix of people in my house, and having gone to a few parties and events with them I’ve built up a really solid network of Canadian friends. You might want to share a house with other students going on exchange, and by all means that’s great, but there’s nothing wrong with moving in with a house full of strangers! (Apart from that one person…)
As for tips, try and join all the relevant Facebook groups you can find. Like I said, everything happens there nowadays so it’s the easiest way to get informed. Do a little research into the area: find out the main student area(s), the distance to uni, the distance to town etc. as you’ll be making these journeys a lot. See if your uni offers a bus pass, because then you can afford to live a little further out. Other than that, best of luck in your search, and enjoy your year abroad!
Written by Luke Swallow – McMaster University