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Know Your Rights: My student accommodation is unsafe. What do I do?

Does your university accommodation feel unsafe? Source: Alexandra Gorn/Unsplash

Can I apply for work as an international student in my host country? What are my wage rights? Am I allowed to join protests and class walkouts? If I had a run-in with the authorities, what should I do? To help you understand the extent and limitations of your rights as a student abroad, Study International will provide the answers to all these burning questions and more through our “Know Your Rights” article series. Have a question you want to be answered? Email us at editor@hybrid.co

When you’ve moved thousands of miles abroad to your dream university, the last thing you’ll want is to feel unsafe in your new university halls. What every international student deserves is a welcoming campus community, complete with friendly housemates and a respectable halls representative who’s happy to help with any queries or feedback about the students’ current living situation.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes students feel they’ve been sold a lie about how their selected accommodation should look and feel. Airbrushed images of university campuses and flashy virtual tours can be misleading, so the only way to know for real is to experience it first-hand. So what do you do if you’re beginning to feel unsafe a few weeks after settling into your new house or halls?

If your student halls representative isn’t helping, seek outside help

So, you’ve told your halls guardian (this is usually a mature student) that you’re not happy with your living situation. Whether it’s a tricky flatmate causing you grief or the fact that local areas are filled with unruly gangs, this issue could soon start to affect your studies.

If the guardian doesn’t listen to your requests or fails to take worthy action, it’s best to contact your university directly. Either the students’ union or student support team will be there to listen to your worries. It’s their duty to help in any way they can.

So, if you aren’t comfortable in a place that’s supposed to give you respite after a long day of lectures, it’s really not worth your investment. Remember, university isn’t always easy and you need your private space to unwind. It’s your university’s responsibility to ensure you feel safe.

Conduct in-depth research on the area’s safety statistics

The best way to figure out how safe the neighbourhood your campus is located in is to read local papers. If they have an online gazette or newsletter, critical criminal issues will usually be published and warnings will be granted. Alternatively, you can check out student forums and see if anyone else has had trouble living in your desired area. Contact the forum contributor for a firmer grip on what your future living environment entails.

Think of ways you can join a community transformation initiative

If the accommodation you’re staying in is lovely but the neighbourhood you have to walk through to get to campus is not, every time you have to leave your halls or flatshare can feel really intimidating. Instead of running away and looking for alternatives, why not try and solve the issue? Perhaps the local community needs to be uplifted with inclusive events and fun get-togethers. Or maybe the town’s council needs a few fresh opinions and ideas to bring peace.

Yes, it’s easy to turn your back on the issue and move to a new area, but what about seeing this as a chance to build your people skills and professional portfolio? You don’t have to go it alone; you could create a team from your housemates and university peers to establish a community development initiative.

If you have any further questions about your accommodation or personal rights while studying abroad, email editor@studyinternational.com and we’ll help you get to Know Your Rights.

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