What you need to know when choosing your accommodation
Choosing where to live during your time in the UK is one of the most important decisions you will make. The place you choose is not only a place to store your belongings and to study and sleep, but also the centre of your social life in the UK. Most importantly, it is your home away from home and as such, it is absolutely essential to arrange your accommodation in the UK carefully. Remember, your UKEAS counselor is there to help and advise you about accommodation.
Private Residence Accommodation
Increasingly, students are choosing to live in purpose built residences, especially in the main urban areas, that are offered by private companies.
Often facilities are more modern, services from the accommodation providers are better and the convenience of travel to and from lectures no different from being on campus.
The largest provider of such accommodation in the UK is UNITE PLC. More information about UNITE and the accommodation they have available can be found by clicking here.
University Accommodation - Residences
Almost all universities offer accommodation but standards can vary quite dramatically depending on when the residence was built. Some are very modern while some can be quite old and well used! Usually the university will divide students up so that postgraduate students are not usually living in the same residences as undergraduate students, although sometimes they may have to share. Usually men and women will live in the same residence although there are occasionally female only residences.
Many schools are not able to guarantee on campus accommodation and if they do, it is common that you will only be guaranteed accommodation if you have applied for it before a deadline. Once you make your final choice of where to study, you will need to decide about your accommodation as soon as you can. As there are many different choices, your counselor will help you and provide information to help you to decide. The university website is very useful to research and obtain more information.
Note: Although many universities have flats or houses for married couples or families, these are very few in number and so it is often very hard to obtain such accommodation.
What does school accommodation consist of:
If living in a residence, you would normally have a study bedroom, which will include a bed (maybe single or double), a wardrobe and sundry storage space and a desk with a light. Some rooms may have a shower and bathroom en-suite (i.e. in the room for your use only) or a shared bathroom, which will be used by a number of flats on that floor. Bedding packs are usually available for purchase but you would normally be expected to provide most of the necessities yourself. It is highly unlikely that you would share a room with any one else, although it is sometimes possible.
There are communal areas such as a kitchen and dining area where you can socialize with your other flatmates and the kitchen will have all major appliances such as fridge, oven, kettle etc. Students in undergraduate residences will often choose to eat the meals prepared at the accommodation's canteen as this is included in the rent of the room.
Living in residence is a great way to get to know people and especially at undergraduate level, can make settling in to life on campus that much easier. For more mature, postgraduate students, residence can be convenient but needs to be weighed against concerns about noise, privacy, etc. Again, your counselor can give advice on what they feel is best for you!
Language School - Residences
A language school residence will be very similar to a university residence and will allow you more independence than a homestay. It will usually offer a single bedroom, although sharing is possible and may or may not offer meal options.
High School - Residences
At public schools where a student is boarding, the residences will often be shared rooms or even dormitories until you reach the upper levels. There is always an adult on hand to look after the young students and meals are always provided.
There are times when students would prefer to live off campus in private rented accommodation. This may be because the university accommodation is full or because they want to share with friends. The university accommodation office can offer advice on this and introduce you to companies that can help you find places to rent. If you are already in the UK, you can also check advertisements in the local paper or notice boards. Unfortunately it is very difficult to arrange private rented accommodation from outside the UK so it may involve going there first and then looking around. There are websites available though that can help you get an idea of where the accommodation is and possible costs. A good website for working out where the rental accommodation is and the distance from the school to the accommodation is www.streetmap.com
International students renting private accommodation should be careful to make sure they understand what their legal obligations are and what exactly the rental is and what it includes as well as all other aspects of the tenancy. If possible, have a British friend help you or ask the university for assistance.
Most students studying at language school or for a pre-university course at a tutorial college will choose to live in a homestay. That is, they will live with a family who have agreed to host international students. Usually the family will provide meals for the students depending on what the student has chosen – for example full board means all meals, half board means no lunch is needed. All homestays who co-operate with the language schools or colleges have undergone inspections by the schools to ensure that they are good families.
Students who stay with homestays can usually choose to have a single room or share with another student of a different nationality. Rooms have a desk and a wardrobe and should be kept clean and tidy. Some rooms have internet access but this cannot always be guaranteed.
For language students, it is best to book the homestay early especially during the summer high season. Depending on where you are studying a homestay may be within walking distance from the school or a short bus or underground ride away.
Remember to tell your counselor about any allergies or food preferences for example so that your counselor can help you to choose a host family that meets your needs – whatever they might be!
University students who have to leave their accommodation during the long summer vacation can also choose to stay in host family accommodation during the summer. An organization called HOST( www.hostuk.org tel +44(0)20 7494 2468 ) can help students to make this kind of arrangement.
Still have questions? Please contact your local UKEAS office to get the most up-to-date professional advice. Remember, its free!