Housing as a Student in the USA

There are a number of options when it comes to deciding where you will live when you are living and studying in the United States. These options typically comprise of the following: 1) on-campus dormitories, 2) off-campus apartment/houses or, 3) staying with family.

One of the biggest and most important concerns for students preparing to start college is the issue of safety. This is especially true of international students, who may not be familiar with the culture and safety issues of the country in which they are planning to study. Once you are enrolled in a U.S. school, the Admissions Department or International Student Office will most likely send you a “pre-departure orientation” packet. Options for where to live are generally included in this information. If you are an international student preparing to study in the US, here are some tips to keep in mind in order to keep you as safe as possible during your studies.

Temporary Accommodation After you Arrive in the US

    Once you decide where you’ll go and how you’ll get there, consider your accommodations options. Perhaps the best option for student travelers is a youth hostel, where men and women sleep separately in dormitory-style rooms. Hostels cost less than most hotels, and provide the added opportunity to meet other travelers from around the world! Like most places around the world, lodgings situated a few miles out from a U.S. city are generally less expensive than the ones in the heart of downtown. Compared to hotels, motels are typically less costly and located near main highways. Use Your School’s Resources while making your travel plans, make sure to check out your school’s Office of International Studies website. Most schools will offer information concerning travel arrangements in the immediate area, such as nearby airports, shuttle/taxi services, and temporary housing options. More over international student association often have volunteers that will help in these first few days of transition. Make sure you contact any available student associations to see what types of help they may be able to offer.

On-campus Dormitories

    Some US colleges/universities offer accommodations for international students on-campus, or near the school’s classrooms, libraries and other facilities. “Dormitories” are purpose-built to house students in large numbers and comprise of rooms for one, two or three people (of the same gender) per room as well as common spaces for students to work and socialize in. Dormitory residents typically share large bathrooms which include showers and toilets. Many first-year students prefer to live in on-campus dormitories because they are convenient to both academic and social activities. Another advantage is that you will not need a car to commute to campus.
    On-campus accommodations also offer close proximity to the cafeteria and other eating establishments. U.S. colleges and universities offer very flexible meal-plan programs, where you can choose to pay in advance for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On most campuses, you may also deposit a certain amount of money at the beginning of the semester for food that you may buy from designated places. Each item’s cost is deducted from the balance in your account throughout the semester. Again, your pre-departure orientation packet will probably detail your eating options.
    Moving into a dormitory setting is relatively simple: utilities such as electricity and telephone connections will most likely be ready to use. Each U.S. college or university has its individual policy on paying for long-distance telephone charges; learn those policies soon after you arrive on campus.

Off-campus Options

    Some U.S. colleges do not provide on-campus accommodations for international students. In these cases, an off-campus housing office will provide assistance in finding an appropriate place to live. Majority of off-campus housing offices also have websites with detailed information regrading activities to help students find a compatible roommates to share expenses; they also provide information about the local neighborhoods, including popular restaurants, shopping areas, parks and recreation, and public transportation.
    Ask new friends and other students if they have any suggestions for a good apartments in the area. The internet and classified advertisements are also great resources for finding reputable and safe places to live nearby. If all else fails, contact a real estate agent for assistance – though beware of unspecified fees for the service.
    Before committing to a lease, or an agreement to rent an apartment, spend some time in the area to decide if it feels safe and convenient to places like school buildings and grocery stores. Read the lease carefully before signing. You will learn, for example, that the landlord is not responsible for your possessions if they are stolen or destroyed, so you may consider purchasing “renter’s insurance.” If you do not understand any part of the lease agreement, ask the landlord, a friend, or someone from the international student office to explain it to you.