For those who aim to intern—or even study—abroad, finding the perfect place to call home during your time in a new city, state or country could feel like navigating a complex maze. Joining us are Hannah Chappatte, the founder of UK-based student letting platform Hybr, and Wala Alradhi, an architect with a unique perspective, to help us truly understand the challenges presented by intern accommodation. Both have experienced the complexities of finding suitable accommodation firsthand, and their insights are invaluable for anyone undergoing a similar experience.
Understanding the current context
Internships abroad bring immense opportunities, but they also introduce distinct challenges. To this day, intern and student accommodation around the world is more or less uncharted territory, laden with complexities and considerations that can leave even the most seasoned individuals feeling a bit lost. You could have travelled the world for your studies or your internships and still catch yourself utterly surprised.
For Hannah, this surprise would eventually lead to the creation of Hybr. “As a student, I was shocked that there was no platform that supported first-time renters.” This lack of support is what spurred Hannah to begin her venture, aimed at providing a platform for first-time renters to compare options, find the right property, and receive the necessary support.
On the other hand, Wala’s experiences as someone who moved all the way from Saudi Arabia to London highlight the intricacies of securing suitable accommodation as an intern abroad. Her journey involved the use of rental apps which allowed her to search for housing that met both her proximity and budgetary requirements.
Interns who struggle to secure accommodation face a distinct set of challenges, and Wala’s insights provide valuable guidance into this area. “I did face a few challenges when it comes to searching for a suitable place—either for the short term, such as the brief internship period, or in the long term, for studies or full-time work,” she shares.
Students and interns stepping into unfamiliar territories often lack knowledge about local housing customs, language barriers, and the intricacies of rental processes. The uncertainty of what to expect can be overwhelming.
This is why it’s important to research and plan thoroughly—and in advance—before agreeing to anything! Let’s explore some of the most common challenges that lie ahead.
The limited financial resources available to most students and first-time interns can be a significant roadblock when seeking suitable accommodations. Finding affordable options, especially in bustling urban centres, can feel like chasing a mirage.
This hurdle is the reason Wala suggests setting “reasonable expectations when looking for accommodation.” Research shared housing, student apartments, or short-term rental options. Look up regular pricing for units in nearby areas and speak to somebody from those regions to understand whether or not it would be a viable option for your budget.
Hannah echoes this sentiment, stressing the importance of understanding one’s budget and exploring a range of housing possibilities. Balancing dreams with financial reality can lead interns to accommodations that align with their budget without compromising on safety or comfort.
One of the most significant challenges for interns, particularly those moving their lives overseas, is the need for remote property viewings. The inability to physically view properties before committing can lead to anxiety and uncertainty. Hannah understands this problem quite well, acknowledging that committing to a property sight unseen can be daunting.
“It’s very stressful for international students who can’t view a property in person before they move in. So they really feel like they’re taking a risk when they have to pay a large amount of money upfront to rent a home that they’ve never seen in person,” she explains.
Hybr offers multiple tools to address this challenge. “This is why we focus on having video tours, FaceTime viewings with landlords and Matterport 3D tours. You can really get a feel of what a property actually looks like before you pay and move countries, not after.”
No UK guarantor
For foreign interns and students who lack a UK-based guarantor, a new layer of complexity emerges. This situation can necessitate paying a substantial sum—up to six to 12 months’ rent—upfront. The financial strain and uncertainty this brings can be overwhelming, especially for young individuals.
On how she approaches this through Hybr, Hannah states: “This can be very nerve-wracking and also not a plausible option for a lot of young people. That’s why we work with a lot of international agents to provide a guarantor replacement scheme that’s free of cost to young people to help them navigate that difficult obstacle.”
Culture and language barriers
For many interns, their time abroad is not just about professional growth; it’s an opportunity to broaden horizons and gain a global perspective. However, amidst the hustle of finding accommodation, the cultural and linguistic aspects might take a backseat.
Wala’s advice to “find like-minded housemates” offers a valuable starting point. Forming connections with fellow students who are going through similar experiences can be incredibly comforting. Imagine sharing stories, challenges, and victories with someone who understands what you’re going through.
Moreover, seeking advice from peers who have undergone similar experiences can provide valuable insights. As you navigate the unfamiliar rental landscape, you’re not just finding a roof over your head; you’re discovering neighbourhoods, interacting with locals, and immersing yourself in a new way of life.
Scams and fraudulent listings
The digital era has opened the door to a variety of scams targeting students and interns seeking accommodation. Telling apart real deals from traps isn’t getting any easier—and falling into scams can mean losing money and trust.
To address this hurdle, Hannah suggests a straightforward strategy: “Check online reviews, talk to the team, and ensure there’s a tenancy agreement before paying.” Wala backs this with her preference for “verified rental apps.” These tactics give interns a better chance to dodge scams and stay safe.
To help distinguish scams from legitimate listings, Hannah underscores the necessity of a signed tenancy agreement before transferring money, while Wala advocates for diligent research. “Look up reviews online, speak to a team in person, and confirm a tenancy agreement,” she advises. These steps are pivotal in discerning legitimate opportunities from potential scams.
The issue of scams is a pressing concern for all renters, regardless of their journey. Hannah provides a crucial piece of advice: “Never transfer money to a landlord without a tenancy agreement in place.” Scammers often prey on renters’ eagerness, making thorough research and due diligence essential. Researching landlords, reading reviews, and documenting all communication can serve as safeguards against potential scams.
Landlords can be tricky
The challenge of cultivating a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship is rooted in the dynamics of communication and understanding. The prospect of dealing with landlords can evoke stress, especially for interns venturing into unfamiliar territories. For example, as we explored earlier in this blog, cultural norms and expectations may differ from what you’re accustomed to. This can create a potential mismatch in perceptions and responses, making effective communication all the more essential.
Finding common ground with landlords doesn’t have to be an arduous task. One effective solution, as suggested by Hannah, is to simply treat landlords as human beings. Approaching interactions with respect and empathy can set the tone for a positive dynamic.
Furthermore, clear and open communication plays a pivotal role. Wala emphasises the significance of promptly addressing concerns and discussing potential solutions. This approach not only resolves issues efficiently but also demonstrates a proactive attitude. In the event an issue does arise, ensure to diplomatically flag concerns and discuss solutions.
Ensuring a smooth accommodation hunt
To ensure your housing experience is seamless, it’s crucial to be well-prepared. Here are a list of vital steps you could take to make things easier for you!
- Start your research early: Research is your best ally. As soon as you know about your upcoming internship abroad, start looking into housing options. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be.
- Set a realistic budget: Understand your finances. Calculate your stipend, savings, and extra income to set a practical budget. This will help you narrow down choices and find an affordable option.
- Exercise caution with listings: Not all listings are reliable. Stick to reputable platforms or housing companies to avoid scams. Look for reviews and contact former tenants to ensure you’re making a safe choice.
- Embrace virtual tours: When you can’t physically visit properties, technology comes to the rescue. Video tours and virtual viewings provide a sense of the place, helping you make informed decisions from a distance.
- Talk to the locals and fellow interns/students: People who’ve been living in the area/country for much longer can offer incredibly valuable advice. Consult colleagues, HR, or fellow interns for recommendations and tips on finding housing.
- Practise effective communication: Clear communication is key. Treat landlords professionally, and address any issues calmly. Maintaining a good relationship is essential for a trouble-free stay.
- Understand your agreement before signing: Never sign without thoroughly reading through your contract—or any legally binding document. Ensure you’re clear about terms like rent, deposit, payment schedule, tenancy duration, and liabilities.
One more vital tip for interns abroad
While the journey to secure suitable accommodation can be riddled with challenges, it’s a voyage well worth undertaking.Whether you’re a first-time renter or an intern in search of short-term housing, the key lies in meticulous research, setting achievable expectations, and maintaining transparent communication.
The road to comfortable accommodation might have its share of twists, but with the right approach and plenty of prep, you’ll undoubtedly find your way to a place you can comfortably call home. As Wala wisely states, “Be patient, the right accommodation will find you!”