How to Decide Guide 2015

If you're having trouble making a decision about whether study abroad is right for you, you might want to download our handy 'How to Decide' Guide 2015

The guide is designed for all undergraduate students who intend to spend, or are considering spending, some time abroad as part of their degree programme. The information is intended as a brief guide to get you thinking about your time away, and to direct you to further resources on this site.


Organising accommodation for your time abroad is often the biggest priority for students prior to departure. Depending on what kind of placement you will be doing, you may have the option of going into halls, finding accommodation through a university or student housing association, or renting a room or flat privately. The links on the left of the page are designed to give you some general advice about finding your accommodation.

General Advice

Although everyone and every university is different, the advice below should always be considered when you are looking for a place to lie overseas.

  • Never agree to rent a property or transfer money to a landlord without seeing the property first (except for university halls and university managed accommodation) – scammers are ruthless and you could end up homeless and out of pocket.
  • It can be difficult to get accommodation in metropolitan areas – don’t assume that you’ll be able to arrive and find somewhere to live the same day. Make arrangements to stay in a hostel/hotel or with a friend while you get yourself sorted.
  • Don’t visit a property by yourself – you could be vulnerable. Always take a friend with you, just in case.
  • Make sure you sign a tenancy agreement – these are designed to protect your rights as much as the landlords. If you have any concerns about the content of the agreement, make sure that you talk about them with a local advice service. If in doubt – don’t sign and make other arrangements.

The website has a range links for useful websites tried and tested by study abroad students. They also have a forum which you can use to ask questions and post requests for flatmates. Further information on finding accommodation can be found in the ‘Preparing to go abroad’ section of the website.

Applying for university-managed residences

If you would like to apply for a university-managed residence, please make sure that you find out what the deadlines are for applying and stick to them. Research what you might need for the application, whether there are any application fees and when you should expect a response from your host university.

Find out whether you are guaranteed a place in a residence or not - if not, we recommend you start looking at other accommodation options while you wait for your application to be considered.

Pros and cons of university-managed residences

It's difficult to make generalisations about halls of residence overseas, as they will vary greatly from city to city, even in the same country. Here are a few points for you to consider:

  • Cost and Location - at some universities, university accommodation will be much cheaper and closer to the campus, whereas at others you might pay more or live miles away.
  • Catering - some people like to have catered halls, but at some residences you don't have a choice so if you prefer to cook then perhaps this isn't for you.
  • Security - there might be the added protection of on-campus security if you are in university accommodation, but then again if there isn't you may feel more vulnerable if your fellow students go home over the weekend (as many do in mainland Europe).

Looking for private rented accommodation or a flat-share

If you do not have the option of university accommodation, or prefer not to live in halls, you will need to look for a private let or flat share.

Unless you can do this through a recommended management agency (for example a private student accommodation service) then it is usual to do the majority of your flat hunting once you arrive in country. You should try to book a hostel/hotel or arrange to stay with a friend on arrival, then arrange for flat viewings and meetings with potential housemates from there. 

Pros and cons of private lets

  • Cost and Location - with a private let, you have much more control over your location and price, which can be useful if you're on a tight budget. However, the downside is that you will usually be liable for your bills on top of your rent, so that is something to bear in mind.
  • Availability - when letting privately you can decide on your move in and move out dates. However, some students struggle to find lets which will allow them to stay for only the academic year so this can be a challenge.
  • Security - there might be the added protection of on-campus security if you are in university accommodation, but then again if there isn't you may feel more vulnerable if your fellow students go home over the weekend (as many do in mainland Europe).


You can arrange the viewings before you leave by email or phone, if you like. However, be aware that scammers frequently operate via online listings websites such as Craigslist and Gumtree and it is important to be aware of a few golden rules if you are looking for flats online:

  • If something is "too good to be true," it is too good to be true...because it is a scam.
  • NEVER WIRE FUNDS via Western Union or any other wiring service- Never agree to wire funds to another individual. No legitimate property management company or agent will ever ask you to wire money.
  • NEVER Give Out Financial Information- Never give out your bank account number, social security number, credit card number, or any other financial information until you have seen the rental or for sale property.
  • Deal Locally and In Person- You'll avoid a lot of the confusion and worry by meeting agents in person before signing over your money.


Before beginning your search, research the areas that you might like to live in. Find out what kind of place it is, whether they're considered 'good' areas. If you're stuck, you might be able to ask your university housing service or your future employer for advice.

When you go to look at a flat, do not go alone - team up with other UCL students or other exchange students and go with them. By going alone, although in most cases you would probably be perfectly safe, you are making yourself vulnerable. If you really cannot find anyone to go with, make sure that you give details to a friend of the property you are going to view and the person you are going to meet.


Wherever you live, it is important to get a contract in writing, even if it just a document setting out your rights and responsibilities in a flat share. If your contract is written in the host country's language and there is anything you are unsure of, seek advice from a friend, lecturer or member of staff at your university, or a colleague or employer. 


If you have issues with a contract, landlord or other tenants you should first of all try to resolve them yourself. If they continue, seek advice from a local advice service in your host country with assistance from your host institution or employer if necessary. They will be best placed to answer legal questions and help you find an amicable solution.

However, if your problem persists and you cannot find a solution in-country, you should contact the Study Abroad Team for advice. We will assist you by putting you in touch with relevant people at home or abroad who can offer support.

Page last modified on 08 oct 13 16:35