Moving to a new country can be as tedious as it is rewarding. One of the most difficult hurdles for those moving to intern abroad is finding the right accommodation. While it is a difficult task, it isn’t impossible.
Let’s talk about the current housing situation, what this means for those working or interning abroad, what steps you need to take before making a move, and how to ensure your accommodation choice is up to standards.
As stated in the Forbes article on housing prices, “Home values have skyrocketed since the pandemic began. From December 2019 through June 2022, prices rose 45%. Even after accounting for recent price drops, home prices have increased 38% since March of 2020. This level of growth was unprecedented and unsustainable. At some point, it had to slow down.”
While experts don’t expect an abrupt housing market crash in 2023 — with those at Morgan Stanley predicting a “10% drop in average national housing prices” during the period of June 2022 to 2024, affordability remains an issue for many. These numbers are not only applicable to the USA but to everywhere else in the world, too.
Students, those in low-paying jobs, families closest to the poverty line, and migrants often find it difficult to find and secure good accommodation while also grappling with the skyrocketing cost of living.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t options worth looking at, it just means that it will take more effort to make sure you’re getting a good deal. The first step is to identify what options are feasible.
Options to consider
If you’re a student or an intern who’s moving abroad to study or work, you’ll have to consider a few things: the types of accommodation, distance, legal concerns, and cost. It’s important to identify your options early on because you may not know what you’re eligible for unless you ask.
For example, students may be eligible for accommodation subsidies through their institution, while interns may receive accommodation from their employers or with the help of an internship provider.
Here are some forms of accommodation that could fit your needs.
Homestays are a great option for interns looking to get a headstart in integrating with locals. Usually, homestays are hosted by families, so it’s often safer. Additionally, there’s also the chance to learn a new language and even find the best travel routes, restaurants and so on.
There are also homestays that offer meal plans, where lodgers can arrange to have meals prepared for them for much cheaper than what could be found outside, which is a great option for those who are on a budget.
Homestays also address another key concern for those moving to countries where they don’t know anyone. You may even feel less homesick in this familial setting.
A common and often expensive option is to rent an apartment. Apartments give you a lot more freedom and space than homestays but it does come with a heftier price tag. The solution that most opt for in these scenarios is to find a housemate or roommate to split the cost with. This is also useful for those working in larger cities, where housing is often pricier.
Another economical option is to sublet instead.
Subletting is when the owner allows somebody to ‘rent’ their home for a short period of time while they’re not there. Due to the owner needing to find a subtenant due to their requirement, it’s usually cheaper and a worthy option for those who are interning for shorter periods, like two weeks or one to three months.
Hostels are excellent for those looking to save money but there are definitely pros and cons to this. While being very cheap, hostels offer fewer amenities. If you’re staying long-term, you’ll be sharing your room with multiple other people for a lengthier time than otherwise.
Staying at hostels is a good way to make new friends, but it can also turn sour quite easily if you end up meeting people you can’t get along with.
On the other hand, we have dormitories which are, while similar to hostels, more community-centric. They’re often also equipped with more necessary amenities, which are provided on a shared basis. Dorms are commonly found on campuses, making it a prime option for students.
The next steps
So, now you know what the common types of accommodation are. What next?
Do your research
Never underestimate the importance or urgency of research. If you’re still in your home country, don’t wait until your departure date to start researching. There are many ways to get started.
First, list out the following variables on a table.
1. Distance: Look at areas around your office. Is it feasible to find accommodation closer to your workplace? If not, check the surrounding areas. Once you’ve shortlisted a few areas that work, start checking precise locations.
2. Location: Is it a safe neighbourhood? Is it well-connected or will transportation be a burden? Is there solid access to stores and hospitals or clinics? Does it have recreational spaces that you can go to?
3. Size: The size of the accommodation matters a lot. If you’ve got a lot of luggage and require extra space for your personal use, determine how much space you’ll need and look for places that match your expectations.
4. Price: Pricing is very important. As an intern, it is unlikely that you’ll be earning a hefty salary, so budgeting is something you can’t skip. Remember that you’ll have to consider other expenditures, such as groceries, travel, and more, so calculate how much is affordable for housing.
Set the price range you’re willing to pay and stick within that budget. Another key point is advance payments (or deposits), which the landlord or accommodation owner requires you to pay upfront. For example, if you’re required to pay two months’ rent as an advance, you’ll need to calculate if you can afford that.
5. Amenities: Many cheap accommodations come without certain vital amenities. For example, there might not be a kitchen or a fridge — or even Wi-Fi. Before you shortlist accommodations, make sure to identify which amenities you absolutely need. This way, you can filter out places that would otherwise be a waste of your time.
Now you know the broad parameters within which you can work. Use this table to list accommodations you come across and fill in the details. Make sure to add the link for each spot on the table so you can easily access them later.
The table will help you see which accommodations suit your needs the most and this will make shortlisting and following up much easier.
Keep in mind that more populous, developed areas will often have accommodation listings flying off the list due to demand. If you’ve shortlisted a good spot in the city, immediately secure a chat with the owner to increase your chances of securing it.
An often overlooked yet helpful research tool is talking to people who live in those areas. Speak to your employer, perhaps, or a coworker to get their thoughts on the areas you’re considering.
If you’re going abroad through an internship provider, reach out to them. Internship providers are there for the sole purpose of helping facilitate your internship and often provide additional services, like booking accommodations for interns.
If your program doesn’t already come with an accommodation option, talk to your contact and ask them if they can help you.
Many internship programs offer housing support to their interns. In some cases, housing is provided by the internship program. In other cases, they may be able to provide recommendations or match you with potential host families. Before you try to “figure it out” alone, start by contacting your program supervisor to see if and what support they offer when it comes to housing.
Know your rights
Not to scaremonger, but though you’ll meet plenty of nice people abroad, you may also encounter individuals who aren’t. Before you reach out to anyone listing their accommodation, make sure to read up on your rights as a tenant/renter. These may vary depending on the country you’re moving to, so make sure to go through what is listed on verified, reliable sites — especially government sites.
When signing your contract, go through it thoroughly to make sure that there are no clauses that infringe on your rights.
Have your documents ready
Renting or even sharing accommodation can be a document-heavy process. You’ll need to have all your documents ready and in order prior to the signing of the contract.
This includes your ID, a rental application, contact information, a letter of employment, proof of funds, and references. There could be more or fewer requirements based on what the landlord or owner wants.
Obtaining all these documents could be time-consuming, which is why having them in order early on will save you a lot of time and stress.
As scary as going to an unfamiliar country is, you stand to experience something interesting and exciting. Don’t let worries over accommodation stop you from getting the full internship experience you deserve.
The key to successfully shifting is to organise and learn as much as possible about where you’re relocating to. So, start planning earlier on after you’ve identified exactly what you’re looking for.
Hope you have a great internship!