Do you like your own space?
Do you want to meet new people?
Are you a party animal or do you prefer the quieter lifestyle?
My overall university experience so far has taught me that different personality types affect the way that students tackle accommodation. Finding the right place can be very difficult, especially if you don’t quite know what you’re after. Home or abroad, however, the process is the same and I hope that this post will help to make this decision a lot easier for you.
Whilst I know that it is not everyone’s idea of fun…I must admit that I love both a challenge and the opportunity to live life a little on the edge. For those of you like me, it may not seem so extreme to learn that my friend and I decided to worry about finding accommodation in Australia once we got there. To those of you reading this in disbelief stay put…there is a method to this madness!
What’s important to you?
Almost immediately after learning of our acceptance into the University of Newcastle, my friend and I had a conversation about what we wanted to do about accommodation and luckily we had the same criteria: we did not want to be in halls. For us, there was no personal vendetta against living in on-campus accommodation; it was just a matter of understanding what we wanted from our year abroad and how that fit with our temperaments. I consider myself a very outgoing person; I love being in the company of others and I love a good party. Still, living in halls requires a degree of stamina that I do not have, coupled with the fact that I am very fond of my own (somewhat quiet) space, and the idea of having more control over my surroundings (eating when and where I like, having my own bathroom and kitchen facilities, etc). With the knowledge that some of my fellow students would be choosing to live in halls, I knew my decision to live off campus would be the perfect compromise; independence with the ability to dip and out of the social scene as much or as little as I liked.
Everyone is different and this is important because the very things that I decided to avoid may be exactly what you want from your year away. If you are someone who likes structure (e.g. set meal times), a guaranteed opportunity to meet lots of students, a ridiculously impressive amount of planned activities/nights out and, perhaps more importantly, a failsafe option ready upon arrival then halls is literally the perfect decision. Even better, like most universities, Newcastle allows some degree of flexibility by offering both catered and self-catered options. If you want to stay privy to all that campus life has to offer, yet retain a certain degree of independence than self-catered is the one for you! It is worth mentioning here that especially in Australia, on-campus accommodation is considerably more expensive and this also factored quite heavily into my decision.
Avoid estate agents!
The university has a website for on and off-campus advice and I thought it wise to use it to get a general feel for typical Newcastle student accommodation and what we could get for our money. Something that we struggled with (and had little guidance on) was the complication of using estate agents to find our house; they required numerous additional fees, bank statements and a working Australian bank account – all of which is fair, but unnecessary if you are a student that has just arrived in the country with a closely approaching term start! Despite trying to tackle some of these issues head on, we decided to use this website provided by the university. Ultimately, we ended up in a wonderful 5 bedroom shared house in a suburb from the university and 20 minutes from the beach and city centre!
Get a phone ASAP!
This becomes particularly handy when ringing around to book viewings or find out information. Australia has awesome pay as you go monthly packages for several operators – I have been happy using Optus – and you can pretty much grab one as soon as you get off the plane in Sydney airport!
Choose a six-month lease!
This is an important yet often overlooked piece of advice. It doesn’t matter how you feel about your new place initially…you only get a real feel for the place, what you want, what the landlord is like, what your roommates are like (if you have any) once you have really settled. Hell…sometimes you don’t settle and that is okay! Signing a six-month allows the greatest degree of flexibility; you have the option to leave should you encounter any problems, or you can renew for a further six-months if you love it! Either way, you are not tied down to any serious commitment – it’s a win win!
If you can, view the property at all costs!
This tip seems like common sense but you would be surprised how many people decide to commit to a property without seeing it – there is a difference between being spontaneous and being stupid! Many websites or companies, despite how authentic they appear, misrepresent their properties and what you see can definitely not always be what you get. Interestingly, in my experience, the house we ended up choosing was our last choice; it did not seem particularly intriguing from pictures but our minds were completely changed once we saw it in person and orientated ourselves around the neighbourhood.
Help is always out there. Don’t be scared to ask the university (Leeds or your abroad institution) for help, equally there are students who are happy to advise you anyway they can based on their own experiences – that is what this blog page is all about after all!
Written by Tiffany Quinn – University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia