James had it all planned out. He had his flights to the United States booked and his entire schedule for his first semester planned to perfection. However, there was one step in the process that James did not plan well – his housing.
Upon arriving for his first semester of school, James quickly learned that his new apartment was not at all what he was expecting. Not only was it located several miles from the university, but he also found the entire apartment was unfurnished. So, instead of spending the first few days in the United States preparing for classes and exploring the city, James found himself searching for furniture to fill his apartment and dealing with other unexpected realities of his living situation.
When studying abroad in the United States, you’ll need to be well-prepared by taking all of the necessary steps to ensure your move goes smoothly. One of the most important steps you will need to take is planning out your housing for your time abroad. If you don’t take the time to find the best apartment for your particular needs, you may find yourself in a tough situation like James. Here are a few suggestions for ensuring your new home meets all of your needs.
Review the lease: A lease is a legal contract between a landlord and the tenant for renting a space. Before you sign the lease, make sure you have a clear understanding of the landlord’s rental policies.
Here are some things to watch out for:
• Payment schedule
• Different landlords will have different payment policies. Some landlords may require payment on a monthly basis on specific dates, while others may be more lenient with the timing. Before signing your lease, determine when payments will be due, as well as the amount owed for each payment.
• Lease length
• How long will you be studying abroad? One semester? One year? Keeping in mind your expected stay in the United States, discuss the length of the lease with your landlord. If you are only studying abroad for one semester, it doesn’t make sense to sign a lease which requires you to pay rent for an entire year. Also ask if there is an “out clause” in case you need to leave the unit before the end of your contract.
• If it’s not specified in the contract, ask the landlord if the unit will include furnishings. If the apartment is unfurnished, you will need to source furniture yourself before moving in. Many students use furniture rental for their apartments. CORT, the leading provider of furniture rental in the U.S., furnishes thousands of student apartments with everything from beds and sofas to housewares and electronics – all with affordable rental package options.
• Additional fees
• Be careful of any additional fees listed in a lease. While some leases may charge a flat rate each payment, others will include additional charges for utilities – such as water, lighting and heating. Talk with the landlord about any additional charges that aren’t clearly defined in the contract to avoid being caught off guard when it’s time to make a payment.
Examine the unit: If you are unable to tour an apartment in-person before signing the contract, there are other ways for international students to examine housing units before moving in. Most apartment complexes will have online reviews detailing the condition of the buildings and the experiences of tenants who had previously lived in the unit. It’s also worth asking the landlord if it would be possible to receive a virtual tour of the apartment. Landlords are often able to accommodate international students by sharing photos of each room in a unit, and even video in some cases.
When examining the unit, it’s important to take note of the condition of the building and come prepared with questions regarding any past damages. This will also help you get back the security deposit when you move out.
Choose the best location: Moving to a new country is a big transition, which is why it’s important to surround yourself with all of the resources you need to make a comfortable move into your new apartment. For students, it’s best to stay within close proximity to campus. This will make it easier to ensure you arrive to your classes and any other extra-curricular activities on time.
If you’re not within walking distance to campus, look for housing with easy access to public transportation. Universities will often have a bus system that transports students to and from campus, as well as to other nearby points of interest. Best of all, these bus systems are often free to the public.
Students moving to a new area should use ApartmentSearch.com as a resource. The tool allows you to search for an apartment in your ideal location, while also detailing the cost of living, local restaurants, the length of your commute and more. If your apartment is unfurnished, furniture rental is an economical and hassle-free way to furnish your home.
Studying abroad in the United States is a great opportunity for students around the world to experience a new culture while also receiving a great education. As you begin to plan your move, keep these tips in mind to ensure you’re making a smooth transition into your new home!
By Yu Wu
Yu Wu is a native of Nanjing, China, and works with universities and education organizations at CORT Furniture Rental to help international students and scholars settle in faster when studying in the U.S.