Not only is it important to understand your accommodation options when you go abroad, but you'll also need to think ahead about your living situation before & after you go so that you can plan accordingly.
Students Living in UNC Charlotte On-Campus Housing
Once approved to study abroad, some students planning to go for an entire semester or year still choose to sign up for on-campus housing at UNC Charlotte for the semester(s) they go abroad just to hold a spot in the event that they do not get accepted into the program or in the event that they're still unsure whether or not they are going to commit to the study abroad program. Students are welcome to do this, however; students who sign up for on-campus housing at UNC Charlotte must take action and cancel their housing by the cancellation dates set by Housing and Residence Life in order to avoid cancellation fees. The Office of Education Abroad cannot be held responsible for any fees incurred should students forget to cancel their UNC Charlotte on-campus housing.
Before the start of each semester (fall and spring), the Office of Education Abroad will send a list of all approved UNC Charlotte students who will be abroad the subsequent semseter to Housing and Residence life. This will certify that you will be abroad so that you will not be charged a fee for breaking your housing contract, if applicable to you.
Students Living in Off-Campus Housing
It's common for students who are about to study abroad for a semester to work with their landlord to look for students who can sublease their apartment while they are out of the country. Similarly, when students return from studying abroad, they may be in need of a short-term accommodation and may look to sublet an apartment. Please refer to your OEA application for subleasing resources.
Students With UNC Charlotte On-Campus Parking Permits
If you plan to go abroad for an entire semester, you may need to contact Parking to see what to do about your parking permit for that semester.
Depending on which specific program you participate in, your program may allow you to choose which housing option you would prefer, or the program may only offer one type of accommodation. What follows are some general types of housing typically associated with most programs. Some programs may utilize several housing types throughout the course of the program.
Remember: You'll always want to review program brochures carefully for more information on the accommodation types offered, the estimated cost of the accommodations (if separate from the program fee), what is included in these accommodation types, to whom housing is paid, and more.
Is housing guaranteed?
This will depend on the program. On some program brochures, housing may be indicated as "guaranteed." In other cases, if housing is not guaranteed, that means that the student can apply for accommodations through the program or host institution, but in the event that they are not placed accommodations, they would then be responsible for identifying & securing their own housing abroad. If this is the case, the program provider or host institution typically offers some guidance to the student so that they can secure appropriate accommodations.
Hostels or Hotels
Description: It's typical for short-term programs (e.g. fall break, spring break or some summer programs) to include a hostel or hotel as the housing option. Students will likely share a room with at least one other program participant in this scenario.
- Breakfast or other meals may be provided by the hostel or hotel (will vary & may not be applicable)
- Stay in the same building as the rest of the program participants & potentially a staff member (e.g. Faculty Director or on-site staff)
- Meet locals or international travelers who are also staying there as well!
- Students may or may not be able to opt for a private room. If so, additional expenses will apply that are the responsibility of the student
Dorm or Residence Hall
Description: Students will likely share a room with another program participant. In some cases (and normally for a higher cost), students may be able to live in a private room. Depending on the dorm or residence hall, students may have a small kitchen in their unit, a kitchen on their floor, or a shared kitchen in their building.
- Live on your own and develop a greater sense of independence
- Become closer with the students you're studying with, whether it be other Americans or international students
- Have your own space, where you're in control of your own schedule
- It is easy to automatically speak English with other American students. One of the biggest gains from studying abroad is improving language proficiency
Description: Students will live with a local family in the host city. This may include parents, grandparents, children, and even pets! Students will likely have a private room and have access to the bathroom, kitchen and common areas of the homestay. Normally, students who live in a homestay have meals included in their housing or program fee - this is because the host parents will provide several meals throughout the week for the student.
- Truly immerse yourself in the language by constantly speaking the target language, in a colloquial manner too, which ultimately boosts your language proficiency skills
- Experience what it's like to have a traditional, authentic, meaning delicious, meal from your host country
- Understand the values of family in another culture and potentially create life-long relationships with your host family member(s)
- Some families will offer to take their host students on small excursions including traveling
- You may be restricted to certain areas of the home at certain hours, depending on your host family's preferred rules, this also includes accomodations, however, communicating with your host parents will positively impact your overall experience
Description: Just like off-campus apartments in Charlotte, students will likely have their own room, a shared common room and kitchen. It's possibly that anywhere from 2 to 6+ participants could live in an apartment together.
- Develop a greater sense of independence
- Befriend local students, international students, and maybe other students from your program
- Have your own space, where you're in control of your own schedule
- Because this is a shared space, you may be limited to space in the fridge, may have to share a bathroom, but you'll get to make new friends!
Description: You have the option to opt out of their housing options, which means you can set up housing on your own. This option is not recommended. However, students who have friends or family living in the host city may want to live with them while they are participating in the program abroad; if the program itself allows students to secure their own independent housing, then students could definitely choose to live with their friends or family who already live abroad in that location.
Who arranges housing abroad?
This will depend on the program. In most cases, a third party will facilitate the housing process & you will simply be asked for your preferences and will then be placed in a housing option accordingly. However, in other cases, it may be the responsibility of the student to secure their own housing abroad. Be sure to read the program brochure for more information on these types of expectations.
Do you need to apply for housing?
This will also depend on the program. In many cases, it will be a matter of listing your top choices in priority order from the list of accommodations offered through the program. In other cases, you may need to formally apply for housing (just like you would have to when you live on-campus at UNC Charlotte). There could also be a scenario in which there is only 1 accommodation option for all program participants, which in most cases means you won't have to take any action.
If you are required to apply for housing, it's critical that you apply as soon as you are eligible to. In some cases, housing may be on a first-come, first-served basis. If you wait too long to apply for housing & you are not able to be placed, you would then be responsible for identifying & securing your own accommodations abroad.
How do you pay for housing?
This will depend on the program. In some cases, the cost of accommodations may be built into the total program fee. In other cases, it may be the responsibility of the student to pay housing to the host university or a landlord. Be sure to understand the cost structure of your program type and to read the program brochure carefully.
It's also important to note that, depending on the program, there may be housing deposits required up front, the total cost of housing may be required in advance or you may be making monthly payments.
Life abroad will be different and that's a good thing! Getting used to your accommodations abroad may take some time, but the best advice the OEA can give you is to leave your expectations behind. It's not uncommon to share close quarters with rooms, living in smaller accommodations than what you're used to in the States, or even to not have access to similar amenities & services. For example, it's common to have access to a washing machine in many countries abroad, but it's very likely that you will not have access to a dryer (or, if so, it may be very expensive to use). This means you'll need to hang your clothes on a clothes line to dry - while this seems like a very mundane life change, it's easy to get easily frustrated when trying to adapt to these changes in your every day life. All it takes is having an open mind & giving it some time to adjust and you will be just fine!
It goes without saying, but always remember to be respectful of on-site staff, locals & roommates when it comes to your accommodations. Studying abroad will require you to be adaptable & become more flexible, which are great soft skills that you will take with you for the rest of your life!
Issues with Housing
While abroad, if you have issues with your accommodations or your roommates, it's important to communicate these problems to your on-site contact (e.g. Faculty Director, International Student Office at the host university, affiliate provider, etc.). Before you report these issues, however, take a step back & try to really understand the problem. Many times when students have housing or roommate issues it is largely attributed to cultural differences or language barriers, in which case it is simply a matter of adapting!
In your OEA application you will have access to a Google Form & Google Sheet that is only shared with confirmed UNC Charlotte study abroad participants. Students who are about to go abroad may be in need of someone to sublease their apartment. This is a great resource for you if you're looking for a short-term option right when you get back from being abroad. However, please note that these sublease opportunities are not guaranteed and the OEA cannot be held responsible if there are no viable options for you that are listed. Learn more in your OEA application once you return from abroad.
On-Campus UNC Charlotte Housing
if you plan to live on-campus when you get back from studying abroad, it's likely that you'll need to apply for housing even while you're still abroad. Refer to the Housing and Residence Life website for more information on housing options, how to apply & deadlines to keep in mind.
Photo by: S.Troxler, Germany