Tips for finding student accommodation in Australia
After what feels like endless months of planning, paperwork and slicing through red tape, the last thing you want standing between you and that glorious Aussie sun is the hassle of sorting out your student accommodation. But whilst the nation’s steep living costs are no secret, there are plenty of ways you can find a place to stay without going grey or breaking the bank. You only need to know where, and how, to look.
Australia, particularly big cities Melbourne and Sydney, welcome hundreds of thousands of international students every year. In fact, in 2013 over 500,000 international students were enrolled in universities. If they can do it, what’s stopping you? And armed with our top tips for scoring the right student accommodation, there’s nothing stopping you from getting yourself Down Under.
Note: AUD1 = £0.55
Unlike many other university cultures, in Australia, it’s the norm to not live on campus. However, nearly all major institutions do offer on-campus accommodation, mainly to cater for international students and local student who live rurally. Whilst living on campus is convenient, it will typically be your most expensive housing option. For example, students living in Aquinas College at the University of Adelaide in 2014 will pay AUD 8,800 per semester of residency.
Types of accommodation can be anything from a room in a residence hall, to a shared apartment on the same street as a university building. It is always organised through your host, with rent payable directly to them. Whilst living on campus is convenient and an easy way to make friends, you should ask yourself what exactly you’re hoping to get out of your study experience in Australia before you commit. In Australia, there is not one distinct type of university life: it’s simply what you choose to make of it.
Would you rather pay for the convenience, or take your chances elsewhere and discover Australian cities as a local student might? For what you’re paying, can you get something nicer if you choose to rent privately? Whilst property prices change from year to year, if you start researching as early as possible you can still get a good idea of what you’ll be able to get for your money, and a good location you’d like to live at. Remember: prices will always be higher in Melbourne or Sydney, and depending on how close to the city or beachfront you are.
Go it alone: private rentals and student share houses
There’s no doubt about it — taking on the rental market in a new country can feel nothing short of terrifying. Finding a room in a student share house, especially when you don’t know anyone, can seem intimidating, but is by far the most common option for both international and local students living out of home. Remember: there are thousands of students in the same boat as you, and Australian cities are well versed in helping them find their feet.
Australia is huge, with widely varied rental costs depending on the city you’re in, and the type of accommodation you’re after. In each city there are areas where students tend to live, based on affordability and relative proximity to campus. For instance, students in the city of Melbourne commonly live in the city’s inner North (Fitzroy North, Northcote), or inner East (Richmond, Prahran). Google, forums and Facebook are great place to get these sorts of clues: type in broad keywords such as ‘find student rooms [city]’ and follow your nose.
Get in touch with your university’s student services to help you find housing agencies and advertisement boards. Type ‘room search [city name]’ into Facebook and join any groups that come up (they do exist). Look on Gumtree for vacant room adverts, or Flatmates for a spot in a shared house or flat. Follow your institution’s social media profiles and engage with them publicly asking if anyone knows of a room. Very, very broadly, you should be paying around AUD80- AUD 200 per week for an unfurnished, modest room.
In some cases, students will also have the opportunity to live in a ‘homestay’ arrangement, which means that they will live as a guest within an Australian household for the duration of their studies. These arrangements are always sorted out by an agency before you arrive, and the cost usually includes meals.
Whilst this is a convenient option that offers a ‘real’ Australian experience, you should think very carefully about the type of experience you’re looking to get from studying abroad, and whether or not living in the relatively closed environment offered by a homestay offers will help you get there. It’s also typically a more expensive option than living in a share house, with average costs per week likely to be between AUD 110-AUD 270.
And another thing...
Whatever option you’d like to pursue, remember that there are thousands of international students in the exact same position as you every single semester, whom all manage to find a place to stay and enjoy their time abroad. Rooms and flats crop up all the time: you just need to be proactive and be the first to put your hand up.