How to find accommodation from abroad?

I’ve been asked about the accommodation in the different cities I’ve lived in. I think this is a good time to tell you some tips about it, just before you start the packing. I know it is not easy to find a place to live (especially if you can’t go personally to check on the site). Sometimes all you can to do is trust and think positive.

The prices would vary from country to country and even between cities. What I had to pay was about 350 euros for a room in Liege (shared toilet, shower, and kitchen). Then 440 for a studio in Nantes, 450 for a room in Hamburg and 230 for a room in Rostock. Right now I pay about 600 euros for a studio in the city center of Liege.

Belgium

This is the first country I lived in when I arrived in Europe two years ago. By this time I had no idea on how to look for a place, what were the normal prices, how to ask for especial conditions, etc. Mainly because I was not able to speak any French at all. Then I just let the University organize the accommodation for me and I didn’t do anything to change it as soon as I arrived. The

The university residence (outside the city) is OK if you would like to meet new people and have some constant interaction with everybody living there. Here you will have to share the shower, toilet and kitchen, plus the common areas. If you are doing a bachelor in Liege, I think it is ok to stay there because it’s the best way to make new friends. But for Master courses, my opinion is that it’s better to stay at the city center. That way you can have more chances to see the city, although I guess a lot of your friends will be in the university residence.

Others

There are some other private residences in the city. These are more expensive than the one belonging the university, but they might also offer more commodities. For example, you have La Meuse Campus in Place du XX Aout or The Student House in the Boulevard de Avroy. Finally, it depends mainly on your budget and what you need.

In Belgium, you have to distinguish between house, apartment, studio, kot and room. A house is normally two (or more) floors, with 2 or 3 rooms. Generally is big. An apartment is located in a building where you might have to share common areas (lift, hall, main entrance) but can be even bigger than a house (depending on the location). A studio is a big room and you have your own kitchen, toilet, and shower. While a kot is normally small, sometimes with private bathroom but shared kitchen, or sometimes with private kitchen but in the same room. A room is normally in a family house, so you have to adapt to their rules. Sometimes kot are also in family houses. To look for some of these options you can go immoweb and take a look, then from there you can find the websites of the real-estate.

France

Then after a semester I moved to Nantes. There the options for accommodation are similar to Belgium and also depending on the city you will find prices and offers that differ. You can start your research in leboncoin. Remember to choose the region and city you are going to, and then the type of accommodation you want.

In Nantes normally, you also have a university residence, which will be full if you arrive after January, so you might need to look for private residences as Univea (which has La Sensive, La Roche and Bel Air) or you can check this list for more residences. What you can do as well is to book a hostel or an Airbnb for one or two weeks while you look around and see the city. There are plenty of residences all around the city, but I have to advise you that you need to speak French, otherwise it will be a very complicated task.

My studio in Nantesfoto1

My studio in Nantes

Example

I was living in La Sensive, which was the recommendation given by the university of Liege before leaving the city. I really liked my studio, it was clean and comfy (and I didn’t have to share kitchen and bathroom!). The residence has a little gym, public washing machines, and garage (for bikes and cars), which makes it more valuable. On the other hand, because it is a private residence, not everybody living there are students, then you need to be careful with your things. We had some cases of bikes stolen and rooms robbed. So I encourage you to close everything with a lock. It is also located far from the city center, which you might find annoying if your life is more “party active” than mine.

A good  thing about France is that the government actually helps you to pay your rent through the CAF, for which you have to apply on the website and then bring all the paperwork they ask you for. In my case, they were helping me with more or less 170 euros per month. But this amount depends on things like: age, incomes, origin, status (student, worker, etc) and rent price. If you do everything correctly, this help is very valuable especially in France, which is a very expensive country for the living.

Germany

Hamburg

When I finished my semester in Nantes, I had to look again for an accommodation but this time in Germany. First in Hamburg, which is one of the most important cities and therefore very expensive. I think it is the second most expensive after Munich. A good start point is to look in wg-gesucht. There you can find from rooms to houses in a wide range of prices depending on the location. Be very careful when using these websites to find a new house, there are a lot of people trying to swindle you with different strategies. For example, some of these people tried to cheat on me a few times. Through wg-gesucht I could find a nice room in Hamburg, sharing apartment only with one girl, which was perfect for me, as long as there are not more than 2 people in the same house.

Don’t let them cheat on you

Some of these people tried to cheat on me a few times. One of the ways to cheat you is to ask for money before even coming to see the apartment. NEVER transfer money without seeing these people personally! They might ask you to transfer via the Western Union or any other money transfer company, claiming that it is safer than a bank transfer.

Some of them might even tell you that they will send you the keys upon the receipt of the transfer. Some will even avoid to the last minute to do a skype call. Excuses like: they have an old computer without a camera (in 2016!) are very common. Others will send you a copy of their passport or national ID with a “contract” to sign. You sign and send it back, then they will ask you for the money. Most of them will tell you that for some reason they aren’t here at your arrival. Then you will get the keys from a third person or by post mail. NEVER accept any condition without having at least a skype call or making sure that they exist in reality.

Rostock

Then in Rostock, after 4 months I had to find again an accommodation. By this time I was already tired of moving away. This time I decided to take the university residence (Studentwerk) because I only had to share the apartment with one person (and it happened to be the girl from my Master) and the price was really low. Moreover, Rostock is a very small city, therefore the options are more reduced than in other cities.

Even if you are living in another country, the procedures are normally very similar. In some countries, you need to apply for an accommodation with a long time in advance. This is because they have a “ranking” for students with experience living abroad, like in Sweeden. If this is your case, register in their national program and then you will get points. That way in some months you will be able to apply for a room. In Denmark the procedure is similar, but I’m not totally aware of how it works in these countries.

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