Finding a place to live is always one of the biggest causes of stress for students going on their year abroad. However, what with having to complete what seemed like hundreds of Erasmus forms, packing my whole life into a couple of suitcases, saying goodbye to loved ones and trying to figure out the procedures at my new university, it was easy to neglect finding accommodation until the end of the summer.
With 2 weeks before my flight to Porto, I began to panic. This was actually happening- I was going to live in Portugal and I had nowhere to live. I didn’t know about the areas of the city, where my faculty was, and had almost completely forgotten how to speak Portuguese after my term abroad in Spain and long summer in the UK. During year abroad meetings in Leeds, the past year abroad students all seemed to have the same advice- look for somewhere when you’re out there – but the prospect of actually doing that seemed terrifying to me.
I looked on websites like uniplaces.com where you can book rooms before you fly, but they seemed quite overpriced and didn’t give you information about the current residents. For me, the most important requirement for my accommodation was that I was comfortable with who I was living with, and that I could practice my Portuguese.
So, I decided to take the advice of past students and wait until I arrived in Portugal. I organized a few viewings in apartments, using various websites and Facebook pages, and booked an Air Bnb for a few nights. I had my first viewing the day I arrived and fell in love with the place. It was difficult at first because my landlord can’t speak any English. We mostly communicated with one another by pointing at things and using a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish (Spaniguese?). Having consulted my parents and friends, I eventually cancelled all of my other viewings and signed the contract the next day.
I don’t regret waiting until I arrived because it allowed me to get a feel for the area and explore the city and, most importantly, meet my new flatmate before signing for a place. My Air Bnb host also helped me orientate myself and begin to get to know the area before I signed.
If you are coming to Porto, these are the best websites I found to look for accommodation. I recommend contacting as many people as possible because lots of them don’t reply:
There are also lots of Facebook groups where people post rooms that they’re letting, too.
Written by Sally Harper – University of Porto