Agents on accommodation
Tertiary Focus
Finding the right accommodation for a student about to embark on tertiary studies is crucial for their wellbeing. Jane Vernon Smith talks to agents about the advice they offer students.

With overseas students normally unable to view accommodation options prior to starting their course, Silvia Stocker, Managing Director at Australia & New Zealand Travel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, says that, for an initial period - normally four weeks - the company recommends booking a homestay. "In these four weeks," she explains, "[students] find the type of accommodation they like," and being on site, they have a better choice and are able to see more of what is on offer.


As she explains, "In the beginning, I offered the options [the universities] offered me, and, because [students were] not always happy, I decided to suggest the best-value option, for four weeks' homestay." If, however, they do not wish to take this option, she says they normally spend four weeks in the university's residential accommodation, before finding something more economical.


Shreekrishna Shrestha, Executive Director at Professional Education Consultancy, based in Kathmandu, Nepal, comments that his company offers help with finding accommodation through its network and partners. Here, also, he says the tendency is for students to initially search for short-term accommodation for between one and four weeks, which may be in a hostel, purpose-built student accommodation (such as Urbanest), homestay or an apartment. Then, once they have arrived and settled down, they can look for a long-term solution, such as renting a shared house or apartment. "Such accommodation," he notes, "is preferred to be close to the institution and city area where they do part-time jobs."


Suad Alhalwachi, CEO at Education Zone, based in UAE and Bahrain, is an advocate of single room catered accommodation. "I don't want the hassle of cooking for myself [and] I find many students are in fact like me," she comments. "However, many want to save money, so they stay in flats and share and cook for each other." She adds, "I feel the London Nest-type accommodation is going to conquer soon, as they not only provide accommodation, but also a student lifestyle. We certainly encourage this type of accommodation."


For Svetlana Kasatkina of Britbridge Education in Moscow, Russia, there are a number of common features among students enquiring about accommodation during their university studies abroad. "It is notable," she says, "that the absolute majority of bachelor students, and most graduate students, prefer university campus accommodation, at least during their first year of studies."


Svetlana highlights a number of reasons for this. First, she says that students and their parents believe that it's a lot safer, saves time - most residences are located within walking distance of the campus - and also saves money. Besides this, "University accommodation provides a student environment which helps them to socialise better, find friends and more easily overcome the first year cultural gap they experience living and studying in a new country."


House sharing becomes a reasonable option in the second year, once the students have found friends. When choosing private-sector rental accommodation, Svetlana says that typically students are looking for proximity to the university, a safe location and a price that meets their budget. At the same time, she points out that some students would prefer to rent a flat on their own, and have the means to afford it. Those are usually graduate students, who are older and need more private space, she observes.


Shreekrishna in Nepal notes that students who go abroad to study accompanied by their family prefer in the long term to share accommodation in a house. "Since university dorms are expensive, very few students wish to take this service," he reports.


For many, indeed, budgetary considerations are decisive. As Sandra Bramwell, Director of Versan in Jamaica, comments, "New apartments are great, if the cost is reasonable, but dorms will be taken if [the] cost is less." In her conclusion, Sandra voices the reality of student life for the majority. While safety and cleanliness rank high, "Cost is everything."



Suad Alhalwachi, Education Zone, United Arab Emirates/Bahrain

"To ensure a happy student experience, the most important factors in relation to accommodation are a games room and gym; good healthy food; cleaning and laundry service provided, along with the linen and quilt; nice and spacious rooms with a bathroom; a lift is important; activities for the students; some advice on homesickness; tutorials; and short trips at the weekend. All of these can make it a great experience for the student."




Accommodation services


In major study destinations worldwide, there are a growing number of companies that specialise in student accommodation and offer a range of options.


In the UK, Britannia Student Services caters for international students seeking accommodation in London and Brighton. In London, it offers a wide range of accommodation types, including halls of residence and homestay, as well as shared apartments and houses, while in Brighton it has its own Britannia Study Hotel accommodating both university and language students.


Britannia works with a "very large network of international recruitment agents from all over the world," explains Managing Director, Michele Da Silva. "Our agents and schools like working with us because we offer an unparalleled range of accommodation options - plus, with us, they can make a commission on accommodation bookings."


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