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Finding accommodation after spending a semester abroad

4 January 2020

When I first spoke about finding accommodation, I stated that I would not be paying for a property at my home institution due to the additional cost of accommodation and living in Norway. For this reason, I spent the first three months of my semester abroad searching for a short term room. After various dead ends, I eventually found the perfect property for me. Most people in my position wait until the student forums open up housing right before the semester begins but who needs that stress?

Finding accommodation after spending a semester abroad, whether this is from an international or European exchange, can be an incredibly stressful experience for those that cannot afford to pay for properties both at home and abroad. Students returning from a study placement abroad face serious obstacles in finding housing as the standard rental contract proposed by student letting agencies are ten months.

I would like to discuss the avenues available when paying for two properties is not feasible.

University Erasmus+ Programme

Cardiff University’s Erasmus+ team have an established network of rooms to rent from prospective Erasmus+ students. But do be aware that this list are mostly limited. Whilst the Erasmus+ team work hard, many landlords and letting agents will not allow their tenants to sublet their room during their study placement.

Spring study abroad placements are usually released in the winter months so keep consistent contact with your Erasmus+ team for updates.

Student Union Lettings

Cardiff University’s Students’ Union Letting Agency is a lifeline in a sea of long-term contracts. They usually will have short term rooms to offer outside of the campus central market with post-graduates and, closer to the spring semester, entire houses of Erasmus+ students are created.

Just like the Erasmus+ team, the Students’ Union will always help and are easy to contact when you are abroad.

Overheard Student Forums

Just about every university has its own variation of a Facebook group entitled, Overheard, where people sell tickets, advertise lost property and rooms to rent. Some of the best rooms for location, price and graduate level will appear on this forum; in fact, my house advertised a room vacancy last year and I can confirm that the housemate we accepted was wonderful.

The only pitfall is that such rooms will not be advertised until the last minute. So if you are like me and you want to secure a room early, this may not be right option.

Private Accomodation

If you do not want to spend your semester with another set of strangers, private accommodation is an option for one-bedroom studios or apartments. Such accommodation offered in Cardiff are available via Hello Student and Collegiate. Of course, this is at the literal cost of triple the rent you would pay in a student house.

However, private accommodations recently have had a decline in short term lets due to a lack of popularity. They do, however, permit subletting on the condition that either the semester or the whole year of rent is paid in full.

So this does not get you out of paying for two properties but it is a worthwhile avenue to explore in the event that there is short term lets available.

Spare Room

Spare Room is an online rooms to rent and room search website that has proven to be a success for students. The process of making an advert for Spare Room is in-depth which means that you can specify all of your requirements as well as sell yourself as a great tenant (with photos as well as a bio). You also do not need to pay to have an account and advertise that you are searching for a room.

Like the previous, finding a room is easier when it is closer to the next semester but there are often available rooms from September. My personal experience with this was quite eventful as letting agents and their current tenants were having trouble agreeing to let their properties. But this was my experience. My friend found a house in an excellent location next to university for a good price and with a good set of housemates.

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Room Go

Room Go is home to mostly private landlords advertising vacant rooms. I found the most properties were advertised here at an early time; most often due to exchange students knowing their return date in the spring. It is not as thorough as Spare Room, which makes it difficult to specify things clearly other than within the advertisement for looking for a room. It also has limited access powers, wherein you will need to pay in order to send messages.

On the contrary to these negatives, finding a room is very possible as you can send ‘interest’ on properties which then enables a conversation to transpire between yourself and the landlord free of charge. This is where I found my accommodation – for a cheaper price than my accommodation last year and in the same location that is perfect for my studies. The landlord was incredibly friendly, did not pressure me into signing a contract and provided any information that I wanted.

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During my search, these are the best methods to find housing that are safe and free of charge. There are many websites that will have that perfect room and then require a large fee to contact the advertiser. These are mostly Erasmus+ targeted so avoid them. Especially when there are safer sites to use.

I would heavily advise to first go through the university mediums to find accommodation after studying abroad. Emailing letting agents is also a positive move to find short term letting but it is often that your emails will be left unanswered. So if you really want peace of mind by finding a room early, the above options, tried and tested by me, are ones to explore.