Imagine showing up to campus on the first day of the new semester, bags packed and parents beaming proud, only to realize that you didn’t have a place to live for the next four months.
This is a potential scenario for students if they are not savvy in planning out their housing arrangements for when they return from a semester abroad.
It happens every year, somebody goes abroad without having guaranteed housing for when they return, the off campus house search is started very late, and then there’s the dilemma of potentially not having anywhere to live next semester.
In order to properly prepare for having a place to live students need to understand the difficulty of preparing exact numbers of available on campus housing spots. Sarah English, Director of Housing & Residential Life, explained the near impossibility of predicting how many rooms will be available for on-campus housing from semester to semester.
English states that her mission is to “be able to have on-campus housing available for as many students as we possibly can”. Unfortunately, trying to fit a fluctuating number of students with deposits into finite living space is as difficult as it sounds. Factors going into the availability of rooms include the number of rooms on campus, number of incoming freshmen, number of transfer students and student withdrawals, and the number of students going to/ returning from abroad.
It’s because of these factors that housing cannot guarantee housing to all abroad students at the beginning of the semester. Provided there is enough room on-campus for all incoming students (on-campus including the Residence Inn down Route 9) the Housing department will be able to inform the abroad students of this later in the semester as they did this year.
Of course, being offered housing doesn’t mean that every student is going to accept it. “The question that you have to ask with housing is which is more important, where you live or with whom?” said English, regarding problems that arise when friend groups are separated in housing.
“We just put each other’s name’s down and have our fingers crossed” said Katie Miller in reference to her plans of returning from abroad to remain with the same roommate of the past two years. Miller, a junior studying in France this semester, has been guaranteed housing since the beginning of the semester. As for on-campus housing, she chose to accept it despite not knowing if she could keep the same roommate because “I figured as long as I have housing I might as well use it.”
Other students saw the return from abroad as an opportunity to break away from the rules and regulations of on-campus housing. Junior Richie Azzarito is currently studying abroad in Florence and was not initially guaranteed on-campus housing for the coming spring. After learning that he and his housemates in Florence could receive housing, they were still set on finding an off campus house.
“I’m so used to being free here so I’m not really looking to be back on campus” said Azzarito, who is currently searching for a house to fit him and his three other housemates in the upcoming semester.
If students are to start an off-campus housing search, then when should they be starting? According to my landlord, a representative of Hudson Valley Off Campus Housing, students should begin this search about a year in advance of when they would be moving in to the house. He says that students should do this because landlords will be looking to sign full one-year leases as soon as possible. Landlords are less likely to sign leases for 6 month periods, so often rooms occupied by students going abroad are sublet to other students returning from abroad that semester.
Students going abroad should find a “year group” that will be going abroad and returning to America on the same schedule as them. It is important to be a part of a group when searching for housing, as some students who return without groups have difficulty finding available rooms
It is also important for students to find “opposite” abroad groups in order to have proper arrangements for a subletting scenario. If one group goes abroad in the fall they simply switch rooms when they return with those leaving for the spring.
Hudson Valley Off Campus Housing landlords do a large portion of advertisement on hudsonvalleyoffcampushousing.com ( hvoch.com) as well as placing ads on craiglist. The representative from HVOCH says that google searches for off-campus housing in the area led to three new leases before thanksgiving. Landlords also make themselves available through the Marist Off-Campus Housing Guides as well as the Off-Campus Housing Fair.
“In my experience, about two-thirds of the students involved in the abroad experience know what they’re doing when they come back” said the representative “the other third typically anticipates all alternatives would be available when they may not be.” According to him there is at least one case a year where a student hasn’t prepared at all by the beginning of the semester, at which point it’s difficult to find an open room available for lease.
When somebody is trying to decide between off-campus and on-campus housing they are weighing freedom and new experience against guarantee and familiarity. “We don’t want students to be making decisions on friendship based on housing” said Sarah English “I want students to do what they want to do.”
The key to reducing all of the stress associated with the housing search is to get it out of the way early. This way you do not have to depend on the plans of other people benefitting you and you can be in charge of your own situation.
Whether a student decides to live somewhere either to stay with their friends or to explore new options, they key is guaranteeing that you have a place to live.
With the Fall Abroad 2015 students returning in under one month, it could be time for you to start deciding where you want to live next year. Ask any of the students returning from their time abroad and you will realize just how short one semester is.