I won’t lie to you, I am absolutely sick of apartment/room/house hunting.
One thing that I have learnt is that, unless you know exactly what you’re looking for and start hunting before you get your Visa or acceptance through, you really can’t be too picky. In reality, it rarely seems to work out the way you first think (but it’s not all bad!). For me, I was initially expecting to travel alone, but then I learned of two other students on my course studying abroad at the same place and we planned to possibly look for a three bedroom apartment together. After some searching, it seemed that room sharing is a more common culture in America so already our initial plans and ideas were being moulded into something different. Our documents took a while to arrive and due to delays at the US embassy, our Visa applications were also put on hold and this set our apartment hunting further back, leaving us with fewer options. And then, as a real curveball, one of my friends was sadly unable to take up his place at CSULB this year and the other expressed more of an interest in on-campus housing, which by now, had a significant waiting list.
Of course, basic things like price, internet access and special needs all still need to be considered before deciding whether or not to live somewhere. But other preferences, such as whether you live with American students or fellow international students, might have to be ignored. Some are lucky, in fact, everyone else I know has been able to get more or less what they wanted, but I have not been so lucky and when it comes to things like waiting lists, it’s really a matter of chance.
So far, for me, one positive has come from this experience, and it’s a big one! Being forced into a situation where I have to independently find somewhere to live with very little time left has pushed me right out of my comfort zone. I’ve been in communication with other students from all over the world, and with numerous landlords and ladies, which in itself has given me a wider experience of accommodation hunting which I hope will benefit me in future travelling adventures. I’ve also had to consider living situations which previously I would have avoided without even much of a second thought. Although I am still on the on-campus waiting list, being desperate to know I have somewhere to live soon has allowed me to develop open-mindedness to many other kinds of living situations, which I feel has somehow made me a stronger person.
However, in order to avoid the feeling of such a lack of security, I do recommend starting looking for accommodation almost as soon as you decide you want to do Study Abroad. I recommend compiling a list of essentials and preferences for your accommodation and perhaps gathering a few options which suit these categories. Although it’s probably best not to confirm anything until you do have official certainty that you will be going on Study Abroad, there’s no harm in looking. If it interests you, I also recommend applying for on-campus housing as soon as you can even if there is an application fee. For CSULB, it took a few months for us to receive our ID numbers which allowed us to apply, but some of us waited even longer until we had the documents to apply for Visas, but with the embassy delay, this proved problematic and if I could talk to my past self, I would tell her to apply earlier. Administration problems like this are always a possibility so allowing for this and building contingencies will make things a lot easier for you in the long run!
After reading countless other blogs and articles describing the amazing experiences of Study Abroad and how it will be the best time of your life, having such a difficult experience as this, was not something I had imagined, but it really shows how Study Abroad is an amazing learning experience. And when I’m able to look back, I’m almost certain that with the vast amount of learning and life experience it is already starting to throw at me, I’ll be calling it the best time of my life too.