The importance of community in international student accommodation
“Even in accommodation which is specifically for students, it is possible for young people to feel isolated”
Where you live is an extremely important aspect of international student education. Living arrangements do have an emotional impact on students, whether they realise it or not.
For international students who are coming to study in the UK for the first time, the experience of living abroad can feel overwhelming. Most will be far away from friends and family, embarking on an entirely new chapter in their lives.
Cultivating a sense of community within halls of residence and private accommodation is therefore extremely important, particularly for those which are marketed towards international students.
Student living, wellbeing and stability
In a study carried out by UCAS, 63% of 70,000 students surveyed said that the standard of their accommodation is a “very important” factor in influencing their wellbeing.
When asked which factors influence accommodation decisions, the location was rated as the most important factor. Coming in at a close second was the ‘ability to live with friends or other students’, with 76% stating that this would have a positive impact on their happiness.
The same survey showed that international students are more likely to remain in the same accommodation for more than one year – 42% said the ability to stay in the same place was ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’.
“For international students who are coming to study in the UK for the first time, the experience of living abroad can feel overwhelming”
With that in mind, it seems as though building a secure base is important for international students. That is why a sense of community needs to be a priority in international student accommodation.
How to build a sense of community
Have dedicated social spaces
Even in accommodation which is specifically for students, it is possible for young people to feel isolated, particularly if they are living in a studio room, as is common for international students, they may not have much contact with other students.
Student accommodation providers should make sure they have breakout spaces and communal areas which are appealing and fun to hang out in. That way, international students are more likely to socialise with other people in their position.
Offer shared rooms
Many ‘luxury’ style student halls and private accommodation options will be comprised wholly of single-person studios. While the idea of having your own personal space will be appealing to some, it can also be a very lonely living experience, particularly when you have recently moved to a completely new country.
Student accommodation providers should, therefore, look more at the possibility of providing shared studios and flats, where two, three or more international students can live together. They could even ask students to fill out a ‘personality’ form prior to room allocation so they are matched with people who are in a similar position to them and have similar interests.
Encourage existing tenants to welcome new students
The best way to make international students feel settled and welcome is to expose them to the positive experiences of other international students.
It’s even possible to set up buddy schemes, where international students are matched with someone who has a similar cultural background to them and can make them feel welcome in their new home.
About the author: Beaumont House provides student accommodation in West London for all UK and International students. Their accommodation is an inclusive, calm and supportive environment, ideal for postgraduate and international students.