Choosing where to live on my exchange year (The University of Massachusetts Amherst – “UMass”) was easy for me. All I’ve known whilst being at University is living in halls. The idea of going abroad was daunting enough, without adding the pressure of trying to find off-campus housing as well, especially having never done it at home! However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible if that’s what you’d prefer. There are a number of resources dedicated to helping students find off-campus housing.
UMass offers exchange students the ability to live on campus in the dorms. I have found this to be a really great way of immersing myself in the American college experience. I have met so many Americans, as well as other international students, and am slowly but surely building good friendships. Applying works on a priority system. The more semesters you’ve been on campus, the higher your priority. So, as an exchange student having spent zero semesters there previously, I had very low priority. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a room, far from it. It is a really easy process.
On Spire, the equivalent of Leeds’s Portal, is where to apply. I applied for break housing, which allows me to stay on campus during school breaks. If you live in non-break housing, you have to vacate your room for the holidays. Break housing is a little more expensive at $3579.50 per semester (£2754.74 per semester), put worthwhile considering. Most rooms are double, so you’ll have a roommate. There are singles, but they’re coveted and more expensive. The choice is yours. My room came furnished with a closet area, a dresser, a bed, and a desk. It was easy to preorder my linens from the Residential Halls Association, so they were available for me to pick up the day I arrived.
If you’re in dorms, it is compulsory to pay for a meal plan. This is a bit expensive but the food is amazing! The meal plan prices vary from $2619 (£2015) to $3081 (£2371.28) per semester. Students are automatically placed on the medium priced plan, but you can change to whichever one you prefer. The meal plan allows you to eat in any of the dining commons, as well as in any other on campus dining facility.
In terms of tips, I advise you to decide earlier on if you’d prefer to live on campus, or off. The bus service is free as a student, so it is easy to get about no matter your option. If you do decide to live on campus, be vigilant as to when you can start applying. This will give the biggest variety of accommodation options to choose from. Also, don’t be put off by the idea of having a roommate. It can be a really great way of getting to know new people. Last thing to say is, have fun searching for your study abroad options. It’s definitely an unmissable experience.
Written by Isabelle Currie – University of Massachusetts Amherst