Today's Featured Contributor is Kelsey Anderson, a senior at Northeastern University in Boston who is currently living and working in London. In her post, Kelsey gives advice on apartment hunting abroad.
There can come a time when you think the world is completely on your side, that everything you have worked for and dreamed of is coming your way and nothing will stop you from achieving your dreams.
This was exactly how I felt in January of 2011 when I left home behind for a six month internship in London. I was on top of the world, but sadly I would have to come back down to Earth almost as soon as my plane landed. Having never lived away from home (other than a dorm room), I was completely unprepared for the challenge that is finding housing in a foreign country. I went abroad blind, not knowing how to look for an apartment and not knowing anyone who could help me, and it was the most frustrating time of my life. There are many ways you can prevent the hassle and frustration from happening to you.
1. First Things First
There are a few things you can do from home to prepare you for what’s ahead. Book yourself a hotel or hostel ahead of time so you have a place to stay while you look at rooms for rent. Also, sign up for any kind of flatshare or room-renting website such as http://www.gumtree.com to see the price range of various apartments and, most importantly, how much your deposit will cost you.
If you have never been to the city you are visiting it is very important that you do your research ahead of time on what areas are best to live in. By “best” I mean what is best for you? Are you a night owl who needs to be close to the hottest clubs? Are you interested in a quiet, residential area that is close to lots of parks? Figuring out what type of place fits you--and not the other way around--is key to happiness. You might end up in an area completely opposite to your wants and needs and it may have an effect on you. Which brings me to...
3. Be Financially Prepared
As I said before, I had never lived away from home so I never had to pay a deposit or sign a lease before moving to London. When I left home I had enough cash to open a bank account but nowhere near enough for a housing deposit. I spent an entire day going back and forth from a Western Union, waiting for my parents to send over enough money to put down a deposit of first and last month’s rent. Don’t let this happen to you! Carrying around a large sum of money in your pocket is scary, so there are ways to avoid looking like a bank robber. Get a cash card from any travel agency that can be used at an ATM. If you set up a bank account before you sign a lease, you can use the cash to open the account and use the account to pay your deposit, or, you can take the cash from the ATM and hand it right to the landlord.
4. Get Organized
Once your plane has landed and you are ready to house hunt, get a cell phone. Most U.S. cellular providers don’t work overseas. After you get a phone start emailing people who have rooms for rent. I found that people looking for a renter want someone who is a.) already in the country and b.) can be easily reached to make an appointment.
5. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Apartment hunting can be quite fun. You can drool at all of the nicer places, laugh and cringe at the dingy places and eventually, just like Goldilocks, find a place that is just right. One thing that I found helpful was looking at one or two more places after I had found an apartment that I liked. It helped me see that there were other places in which I could live, but not necessarily places in which I wanted to live. For me the perfect apartment was a place I would want to see at the end of the day; a place close to my office but still a retreat. It was also close to two of the most beautiful parks London has to offer, Regent’s Park and Hampstead Heath. In the end all of my troubles--not being ready to pay a deposit, not really knowing where I wanted to live, not having any prospects before I left home--seemed small when at the end of the day I could call London my home.
Kelsey Anderson is a senior at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass. and is currently living and working in London. She loved it there so much after her first experience she couldn’t wait to go back and would encourage anyone and everyone to go abroad as many times as possible! You can read more by Kelsey at her website http://www.notlikeimobsessed.com and follow her on Twitter @kelsey_bea.
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