Arrange your student accommodation early to avoid disappointment

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The Independent Online

Coming to the UK to study can be both exciting and daunting; one of the things which will help you feel secure about your new life is having a comfort zone that you can call home. The following information should help you through the maze of student accommodation options and show you how to secure a place in your housing of choice.

How to apply

Don't leave the arrangement of your accommodation until the last minute; if you need a visa to study in the UK you should get onto this straight away. International students don't need a firm address to get a visa, just evidence of their ability to meet - without working in the UK - the costs of their accommodation, so you should make sure you have researched this first. As for the accommodation itself, the majority of universities and colleges guarantee first-year accommodation for undergraduates in a range of different housing types, as long as you apply as soon as you have accepted your offer. Accommodation fills up quickly, so apply as soon as possible to secure your first choice.

International post can be unreliable, so most institutions now have an online application system to speed up the process. Alternatively, you can fax your application through to your university's housing office.

How to find the perfect accommodation

Universities and colleges offer heaps of options, from catered halls and self-catered flats to single-sex or international accommodation, not to mention the private sector. Prices for housing vary, dependent on your university's location and what you go for. Rooms typically include a bed, wardrobe, shelves, desk and a chair and internet connection.

Halls of residence

Catered halls are a popular choice for students. However, if you are unsure about living in mixed halls, most institutions offer single-sex options or even international halls, where you will be surrounded by people in the same boat.

Self-catered flats

If the idea of communal living sounds a bit daunting then self-catered flats are a good option, giving you the opportunity to find your feet in smaller groups of students. Meenal Mohan, 21, from New Delhi in India is studying psychology at the University of Greenwich and arrived in the UK two years ago. Meenal chose to live on campus in a single-sex flat with five other girls. "It was a really good experience moving into the flat because I'd never lived with people from different backgrounds before. Also, after living with my brother for a bit when I arrived in England, it was comforting to be able to move in with first years who were away from home for the first time too."

Going private

If university or college accommodation isn't your cup of tea then contact your instiution's housing office, which will be able to tell you where to start looking for private rented accommodation. Most hold updated lists of vacant housing nearby and will tell you about any useful websites or local newspapers, as well as answering any legal questions you may have.

Waleed Montassar, 28, from Egypt, is studying waste management at the University of Northampton and has been living in private accommodation since September. Waleed spent his first year in halls and now he lives with friends from his course. "You can be much more independent living in private accommodation and you get more space and time for yourself. I really enjoy it because I also get the opportunity to meet people outside the university community in my area."

Enjoy yourself

Your institution's website is a key resource in your accommodation search, so check out what options are specific to your university or college and if you have any concerns get in touch with them directly, during office hours.

While choosing your accommodation is an important decision, Waleed says: "As an international student, avoiding culture shock and homesickness should be your first priority and all accommodation offers the opportunity to meet people who can help you do this. The main thing is to enjoy the experience."

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