It is not the easiest of subjects to explain at first hand, and it is often one forgotten about by study abroad students until it is too late or makes students anxious. It is important to note, no matter how much time you spend abroad, whether the term or the year, housing can come with complications – but no complications big enough to desuade you from experiencing study abroad!
I understand the anxiousness that can accompany those going for a year abroad in particular – I mean, arriving back to England with a majority of the faces you were greeted with almost everyday suddenly not there anymore? It’s a daunting prospect – and also means less choice for who to house with in the next year. There is not much space, and I have so much to share – so let’s get right to the important stuff!
Q: When is the best time to look for a house?
I would personally say around February – we had many problems come late March and early April with concerns to housing as many of the best houses were gone. However it is always good to consider who you want to live with, and don’t go panicking to share a house with just anyone! Those doing their second semester abroad should make sure their friends are highly vigilant in the houses they want – make sure when your friends do viewings to let them show you videos or picture of the house so you all can make an informed decision. Documents can be sent by email if need be by the housing agency or landlord you house with – but make sure your friends ask this!
Q: I am studying abroad for the year, and most of my friend will have left by the time I return. What should I do about housing for next year?
The number one thing I would DO first and foremost – get on that Facebook Sussex House Hunt page! This page was my group’s absolute lifesaver! Especially for those studying a year abroad! You’ll find posts of all kinds on there, with people wanting to add a housemate to their humble abode, or other students studying abroad just wanting to make up a group.
DO NOT go for a house you have never seen before if you are in a group, or if all of you are all abroad, make sure you ask a friend or even a parent if they can go and see some houses for you – provide them with all the necessary questions that you need to ask and do not be afraid to email agencies and landlords questions as well. Always ask as well if all of you being abroad is a problem with them – we found a few agencies unwilling to even let our one housemate see a house because the majority of us were studying abroad!
DO NOT rush into getting into a group either. I understand that there is such a large hysteria among students to go for houses as soon as possible in order to get the best ones, and though I agree the best agency houses are often found at the beginning of January to February, the best houses owned by landlords are often put on the market much later. Keep a keen eye out as much as possible – a majority of the time dealing with landlords is the absolute best way to go (and cheaper)! Take your time to get to know people and see whether you ‘click’ – remember you’ll be living your very last year with them!
If you know people who also went abroad for a year you should definitely see if you can get a house with them!
Q: I am going away for the first/second semester of the next academic year, but I really want to live with my friends – is doing this possible?
Totally! Once you find the perfect house though, make sure that before you sign any contracts that you ask the agency if they would let you sublet your room out while you are away. This means they will allow someone else to live in your room and pay their part of the rent. This also means however it is YOUR responsibility to find someone to sublet with, otherwise you could find yourself having to pay for your rent both abroad AND at home, even if you aren’t living there. Again, the Sussex House Hunt page is a brilliant place to find such students who too will be studying abroad for a semester at Sussex or Brighton.
There are also other options you could take if you find subletting is too much of a hassle, though they are much more of a bargain! You could find a live-in landlord whose home you would share with montly or termly payments and contracts. Or, you could apply for university accommodation, though I personally would not take this risk. You may find at first you are rejected for housing from the university, but I have found from my friends experience that a couple of days before university starts, or even during the first few days of the term that they may offer you on-campus accommodation. Though I am sure by then you would already have sorted your housing out!
Q: Will estate agencies/landlords mind while we are trying to find a house if one of us is abroad during applying for a house?
Well this depends on the agency and landlord. It can be quite a mixed bag. Of the 4 people living in my house next year, 3 of us were studying abroad. We did not have a problem at all really with this situation except for one housing agency who completely refused to let even our friend see a house because the rest of us were abroad – and even when 2 of the 3 of us were in the country, they still refused. Which was a shame, because one of the houses was quite something! Nevertheless with many last minute decisions we managed to find a house in Hanover! And don’t forget, the Housing Office at Sussex in Falmer is always there to help for any questions at all!
Ryshel Patel is a second year Geography student who is currently completing a semester abroad at the University of Amsterdam through the Study Abroad programme.