Supporting the UK’s international students in finding accommodation
“It’s really important that international students know what their rights are”
Relocating to a new country to study is no small task, and there are countless things that international students have to take care of when doing so.
One of the biggest challenges facing international students in the UK today is finding accommodation, so in our various roles as teachers and education staff, it’s more important than ever that we’re able to offer support as needed.
Understanding student needs
International students face a multitude of challenges in coming to study in the UK. There are, of course, the personal challenges – moving away from what they know to a different culture in itself can be extremely daunting.
Many diverse backgrounds come to study in the UK. Administrative questions, though, like legal requirements and visa processes, make the transition even more stressful and demanding.
Adding the question of budget constraints and the cost of moving, and you can see why international students need all the support they can get when it comes to their basic needs like accommodation.
The support that international students need in finding accommodation is not for a lack of options, though. To start with, you are likely best placed to assist international students into university accommodation, such as university halls and dedicated student accommodation. More than half of new undergrads live in halls, whether university owned or private halls—so this is a great place for international students to meet people.
Other common options are shared housing with other students, as well as private rentals. In some cases, homestays may also be a good option. The UK is full of vibrant, cultural cities and towns with loads to offer international students and all sorts of high-quality accommodation available. For example, there is plenty of affordable student accommodation in Liverpool, a city that has a relatively low cost of living and a unique range of attractions from music, culture and nightlife.
The role of educators
How can course leaders and teaching staff best support international students in finding accommodation?
Try to think of the whole process that they’ll go through, and anything you might want to know in their position. The application process as a whole, and what they should expect from it, is a good place to start. Financial guidance is really important; money stress can be a huge factor in the process, especially since the visa and HIS fees have recently been hiked.
Help them to understand their tuition fees, of course, but also what support is available: scholarships, financial aid, budgeting tools, and so on.
Sessions and workshops specifically oriented towards helping international students with the broad range of difficulties they will face is a really great way to encourage students to apply to universities in the UK. Here, you don’t just have to talk about courses and academic guidance, but everything they might want to know as prospective students.
For example, these sorts of sessions can be great for student safeguarding. Spending on security is increasing in UK universities—with some even hiring fulltime police officers. Clearly, safety is a bigger concern on campus than it once was, so addressing that directly with international students can very often help to put their minds at ease.
Another important area to cover in a talk like this, and in general in advising international students, is educating them on tenants’ rights. If they are going to be living in private rentals, for instance, then it’s really important that they know what their rights are so they can identify any potential attempts at scamming or manipulation from people and organisations offering private accommodation.
Finally, encourage international students to get involved with local culture, and to share their own culture with the locals. The UK is a deeply multicultural society, and everyone benefits from these kinds of exchanges. International students will feel more welcomed and at ease when they are able to actively engage with local culture while at the same time holding on to their own culture and customs.
You must always remember that your role as an educator involves a lot more than just the teaching. Students, both international and domestic, will look to you for help and support in many areas, and in general international students will face a lot of big hurdles in coming to study here.
Supporting international students with their personal and educational needs will prepare them much better for success in the UK, and this will definitely be reflected in their academic results and performance.
About the author: Emily Dodd, a community coordinator at YeahPear, is a first-class media graduate from the University of Cumbria, where she navigated the struggles of student life in a city 300 miles away from home. Following these experiences, she recognised the challenges that international students often face when studying abroad in a different country. She aims to provide practical insights into international study to support students and educators across the globe.