How to Choose a Study Abroad Housing Experience

April 23, 2019

So you’ve decided to study abroad, how exciting! Now you may be faced with a choice: where you’re going to live. This may not seem like a major decision, but it has the potential to define the type of experience you have while studying abroad. There are three main types of housing that you will encounter: university housing like dorms, a homestay and off-campus housing like an apartment. Remember, the location of your semester is important, but so is your accommodation!


For students studying abroad in the U.S. it is likely that this will be an option for you. Dormitories are quite common in certain countries, and some universities even require their students to live in a dorm for a certain amount of time. That is because dormitories offer a unique experience for university students.

My dorm room at John Carroll University in the U.S.
My dorm room at John Carroll University in the U.S.

When living in a dorm, you will be paired with at least one other university student who you can divide the room’s amenities with. For this reason, living in a dorm teaches many skills regarding how to live in such close quarters with someone who is initially a stranger. In addition, you will likely have an “RA,” or Resident Assistant, who will keep an eye on the floor and be of service to you and the other residents.

Some perks of living in a dorm typically include a meal plan and regular access to campus academic buildings and activities. Having a university within a short walking distance can determine a student’s academic and extracurricular involvement, so keep that in mind when you make your housing decision.


Depending on the study abroad program, students sometimes have the opportunity to live with a local family. Living with a family is an experience that offers students an intimate experience with the host country’s culture and language.

If you truly want to experience culture and language and develop lifelong relationships with locals and native speakers, this is the choice for you. Homestays are usually popular among students who want to learn the language at their study abroad destination. Nothing compares to the immersion you experience in a household where they may not speak your maternal tongue.

Living with natives also guarantees you tips and recommendations regarding your destination. Whether it’s a cultural suggestion or a restaurant recommendation, your new family will be able to offer you these along with much more.


Living an apartment can be a very defining experience because it is often the first time students must gain the independence and responsibility of living on their own. Couple this with the aspects of living amongst new flatmates, and apartment living can be a very unique experience. Apartments offer study abroad students the opportunity to “live like a local” just as ISEP offers their students. Most apartments will be nestled among natives of your newfound city giving you the chance to experience the culture around you. Additionally, living in a flat oftentimes bring you close to students from all around the world. In my case at Universidad de Murcia in Spain, I’ve lived with students from Belgium, Switzerland, Taiwan, Holland, and Italy. This experience is unparalleled and let me tell you, dinnertime in our flat is never bland!

My roommates and I at the Carnaval de Águilas in Murcia, Spain
My roommates and I at the Carnaval de Águilas in Murcia, Spain

One thing to keep in mind if you choose to live in an apartment is to consider the location. Make sure it’s within close walking distance, or a quick public transit ride, from the university you will be attending. If you are looking for a place to live and don’t know where to begin, try They offer many flats in numerous cities and allow you to securely meet landlords and view available apartments.

At the end of the day, there are many factors that will define your semester abroad, but housing definitely plays a prominent role in your experience. Before you make your housing decision, evaluate what kind of experience you want: campus involvement? Independence? Or a close relationship with locals? No matter what, your semester abroad will allow you to grow and have unique experiences, so get excited!

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