The first piece of advice I would give anyone looking for accommodation is to start your search early. Most Universities will have an application deadline for first choice accommodation, and off-grounds housing becomes much scarcer closer to the start of the semester. It feels a lot better to have a place to stay sorted early, rather than worrying as the semester looms closer!
At UVA there are two types of housing: on-grounds and off-grounds. On-grounds housing is provided by the University of Virginia but with off-grounds housing it’s up to you to find somewhere to live.
As you’ve probably seen in any movie which features a U.S. college, it is very common for students to live in the same room with a roommate. UVA is no exception, so expect to have a roommate in nearly any on-grounds housing you choose. There are options at some residences for single rooms but I would say it’s best to expect to have a roommate – and it is the ‘traditional’ U.S. college experience after all!
First up is the International Residence College, or IRC. This is a residence targeted at developing an international community on grounds and consists of approximately 300 students, of which around 40% are from overseas. The IRC is located close to grounds, has single and double rooms, and features common kitchen and lounge spaces. A unique aspect of the IRC is the range of events offered including weekly morning teas, afternoon teas, and breakfasts, along with a range of other events such as Conversazione Grande dinners and trips. The IRC is located adjacent to Emmet Street and is a short five-minute walk to central grounds.
Best for Shopping
Lambeth Field Apartments, or just Lambeth, are down the road from the IRC, and offer apartment-style housing. Each apartment has two or three double rooms with a living area and kitchen. Lambeth Apartments are a bit utilitarian on the inside than other residences, but are more than adequate for students. Lambeth Field Apartments border its namesake, Lambeth Field, an excellent place to throw a frisbee around or play a game of football. Lambeth is convenient for your shopping needs, featuring its own convenience store, and is situated a ten-minute walk from the Barracks Road Shopping Centre. Lambeth is also a ten-minute walk to central grounds.
Most Modern Accommodation
The Flats at West Village are a modern apartment block located a five-minute walk from The Corner, and around a fifteen to twenty-minute walk to UVA’s central grounds.
To make up for the longer walk the Flats offer a range of modern amenities including a pool, spa, gym, and lobby area with coffee machines. The Flats has one to four-room apartment style suites, with most rooms having a private ensuite bathroom. The rooms share a common lounge and dining area.
Unfortunately all good things come at a price – modern apartments such as The Flats tend to be the most expensive housing option for students. However, if you like the sound of The Flats at West Village, other modern apartment buildings to check out include the GrandMarc and Uncommon.
Best Everyday Experience
I personally chose to stay off-grounds – it can work out cheaper, you can get a single room (for those of us not keen on sharing a room!), and you have a lot more choice in terms of the type of accommodation and the location.
The two main methods I used to find off-grounds housing were the UVA Housing Facebook Group and the UVA Roommates website.
As an exchange student if you’re here for one semester like me, it can be difficult to find off-grounds housing. As I mentioned earlier the best strategy is to search early. Often UVA students who are studying abroad will look for people to fill their rooms while they are overseas. I am subletting a room from a UVA student who is studying abroad for the Fall Semester – a perfect situation for both of us!
I’m staying in an off-grounds house which is around a 10-minute walk to central grounds and 10 minutes to ‘The Corner,’ the street adjacent UVA grounds with an assortment of shops and cafes. My room is a decent size, and was furnished, saving me from the hassle of organising furniture.
Most private leases through apartment companies (such as The Flats) or private leases for student accommodation will be for one year. This means you may be responsible for finding a tenant for the remainder of your lease if you’re staying for one semester. Keep this consideration in mind when finding a place. It is preferable to find a one-semester lease or sublet if possible.
Rooms may be furnished but be sure to find out what this means – one person’s definition of furnished may be different to yours.
No matter where you end up living I am sure you will learn to appreciate the pros and cons of your place during your exchange!
I’ve tried to briefly cover some housing options for exchange students at UVA, but my list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about housing, UVA, or studying abroad in general!
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below.