Indian students abroad facing accommodation issues, here’s why – The Indian Express

Even as countries like the US and the UK claimed to have given more visas to Indians this year, finding accommodation in cities where their colleges or universities are based has become an issue for international students. After the coronavirus pandemic disrupted students’ plans to study abroad, they have now started flying out of the country amid ease in visa policy and decreasing cases of Covid-19.
Some of the students said they have to either defer their plans to join during the current semester or struggle to find places to stay in the countries they have opted to study.
A student, who recently got an acceptance letter from a UK university, said he will now join classes in the next semester. “I was to join this September but by the time I got my acceptance letter, the accommodations on the campus were already booked. I was told by some that I shouldn’t have waited but I didn’t want to book before getting my acceptance letter. It would have been too big a financial risk,” said Anmol.
Post-Covid effect
A report by the global student housing company, University Living, shows there has been a 60 per cent surge in accommodation requirements among students compared to last year. “The reasons behind this surge include the global housing crisis, supply-side challenges, construction challenges during the lockdown, inflation impact, and decreased viability of the plan/project that have resulted in redefining capital investments,” claims the report.
Vibha Kagzi, Founder-CEO of study abroad consultancy ReachIvy.com, said the same problem is being observed in off-campus accommodations too. “The delays in visa approvals lead to delays in the moving process. As most students avoid paying for off-campus rooms before getting visa approvals and this consequently leads to a rise in accommodation prices due to last-minute bookings,” said Kazi.
Sara David Thottapalli, who is pursuing an MSc in Communication and Information Sciences from the University of Tilburg, lives in a shared independent house 11 km away from her university and is paying a rent of €900 per month. “There is a general residential crisis in the Netherlands and the university can’t do anything about it. They said that they are not accountable for the accommodation. Even after they sent the offer letter, they said ‘please accept only if you have accommodation’,” Thottapalli told indianexpress.com.
Thottapalli said it is easier for local students to find a place to live compared to international students. “The reason behind that is the communication gap and not racism. A lot of landlords think it is easier to communicate the nitty-gritty in the local language, rather than English,” she added.
Radhika Deshpande, who completed a diploma course from Germany, also said such situations can be bypassed if one shares a flat with local students. “I share an independent house with two other girls, one of whom is German and the other is French. Our landlady majorly communicated with our German friend. It even got easier for us to find a place because of her as local landlords trusted her more than us, and they had a guarantee,” said Deshpande.
Popular countries, fewer houses
A recent report by the Swedish National Union of Students said approximately 64 per cent of international students take more than one semester to find accommodation and nearly 24 per cent are able to find it within a month of beginning their course.
The housing issues are being highlighted in the major cities of countries like Canada and the UK which are preferred most by Indian students. “All accommodation close to university campuses in the UK are booked in all major cities such as Bristol, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. With inflation and spike in room rents and the dearth in student accommodation, students are having to turn to live in cities close to the cities their universities are based in, sometimes a 40-minute train ride away,” said Saurabh Arora, Co-Founder and CEO, University Living.
The increase in the number of students heading to the UK for higher studies has been directly proportional to the rise in housing issues. In the UK, the problem increased when the country achieved its target of admitting 6 lakh international students nearly 10 years ahead of time, experts said.
“From July till date in September, we have seen a rise of about five times in accommodation enquirers. There has been an increase in undergraduate students as well and this has left on-campus accommodation packed to capacity. In fact, incoming undergraduates at some universities in cities like Glasgow, Manchester, and London and some cities in Scotland have missed out on university accommodation owing to the influx of students. Many late applicants have been asked to retry for next year’s intake. Some have even been offered accommodation in nearby cities not less than an hour or so away from their respective universities,” Arora added.
Finding a way out
When asked what students should do to avoid the housing problem, experts said they should be proactive. “Students need to prepare well in advance and start exploring the options as soon as universities decide to open the applications and not wait till the last day or the deadline,” said Sumeet Jain, Co-founder, Yocket.
Some experts have also suggested getting in touch with other Indian aspirants and planning accordingly. The majority of the universities also encourage international students from the same country or cities to contact each before joining the classes.
“Students should also consider renting apartments that they can share with several other students and that offer a partial refund in case they face a delay in obtaining their visa or look for accommodations that allow them to defer their rental contract,” Kagzi of ReachIvy.com said.
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