As I sit writing this post, I am reminded about how quickly time is passing. I’m now over halfway through my exchange which is insane to think about. People often say that time flies when you’re having fun, and as clichéd as it is, it’s so true. It feels like last week that I was nervously hopping on a plane to the other side of the world, but I have to constantly remind myself that it was over two months ago. For this post, I wanted to write about one of the most important parts of any exchange – Housing.
As with most Universities, you have a choice between on and off campus accommodation. There are pros and cons to each, and depending on your individual circumstances, things may differ for you, but I’ll try and explain how I reached my decision and the process surrounding applications.
Living off campus is a bit hit and miss in Arlington, not only because of the fact that most leases require a minimum one year contract, but also because (as I mentioned previously) Arlington does not have any public transport meaning you need to live within walking distance of campus. With these factors, it just wasn’t worth this hassle for me to try and live off campus, especially when I’m only going to be here for four months. But hey, if you can make it work or want to challenge yourself then more power to you!
This brings me to on-campus housing, something I was already familiar with having lived in University Accomodation at UOA for the past year and a half. UTA offers the standard halls or “dorms” and also on-campus apartments, that provide a more independent lifestyle (which includes being able to cook for yourself). Having lived in both types of accommodation before, I definitely had a preference towards a more independent flatting environment, and wasn’t too keen to go back into a hall situation. But like with off-campus housing, all UTA apartments have a minimum one-year lease and unless you can find someone to take over your lease at the end of the semester, all the termination fees fall squarely on you (not something I was keen to be sorting out during exam time). Therefore, I made the decision to live in one of the halls on campus.
UTA offers 7 different Halls of Residence. I opted to live in West Campus Hall, the newest hall on campus only opening in August and home to about 500 students. Fortunately, one of the worst parts of living in a first year hall in Auckland, the shared bathrooms, were not a problem as each room comes with an ensuite! If you live in a hall at UTA, you are required to purchase a meal plan (optional for people living in an apartment). A meal plan essentially gives you a set number of “meal swipes” per semester that you can use at one of two dining locations on campus. The two locations provide a decent range of food and it’s all you can eat! There are different tiers of plans you can purchase but it would take me an entire post to explain the differences so I’ll just leave it at that, but it is definitely something you want to research thoroughly before you make a decision, because like housing, meal plans are expensive! The benefits to living in a hall are as you would come to expect; a sense of community, ease of friendships, and academic and social support just to name a few. These did play a role in helping me decide where I wanted to live, so it’s important that you give some consideration as to what you want your housing experience to be while on exchange.
The application process for living on campus, or at least living in a hall is extremely straightforward. You are able to apply as soon as you receive your acceptance letter (around mid-April for those studying in the Fall semester). It’s a good idea to start thinking about housing early though, so you know where you want to live once applications open. If you apply early, you’ll likely receive an offer within two days and unlike UOA, accommodation works on a first come first served basis, they even let you select your room!!
Roommates are also a big part of the college experience in the US. Coming from NZ, where this practice is so uncommon, it stressed me out a lot, considering I have never had to share a room before, let alone with a complete stranger. Fortunately, UTA does its best to match you to someone that you will get along well with by making you answer questions on your sleep schedule, study habits and general level of cleanliness to name a few. The whole experience can be a little daunting at first, but trust me, after a week or so, you barely notice it. My roommate and I don’t see a lot of each other, he has a pretty full schedule during the day, and I’m away most weekends, so we really only interact for a couple of hours a day, if that. The RA’s know that sharing a room can take a bit of getting used to, so they have tried to help with the transition by providing “Roommate Contracts” where both parties agree on boundaries for things like cleaning, having people over, and sleeping.
Finally, I just want to leave you with a few tips:
- Make sure you apply early. I know, I know, the host university has already told you this a thousand times, but seriously, housing fills up fast and you don’t want to be left scrambling to find a room a week before classes start.
- Don’t be put off by the idea of having a roommate, it serves as a great way to meet people right from the start, and who knows, they may even become a lifelong friend.
- Take your time in considering what will work for you. Where you live during your exchange plays a large part in your experience overall, and also requires a significant financial investment. So make sure you take the time to assess all the options before you go ahead and apply.
That’s all for this post, I’m currently preparing for my 5 day trip to Alaska which I’m super pumped for. I’m planning to dedicate my next post to travel so stay tuned to hear whether I survive the arctic temperatures! As always feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or follow my Instagram @josh.winnie
Cheers for reading,