Where to Live in Santa Barbara, and How to Find Housing as an International Student

Where to Live in Santa Barbara, and How to Find Housing as an International Student

April 23rd, 2021

By Johanna Davidsson

“How do I find housing in Santa Barbara? And where in Santa Barbara should I live?” Those are two of the main questions students have when they get into Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). SBCC does not offer any on-campus housing, so you need to find off-campus housing. It might be hard to know where to start your search, so I am going to guide you and give you advice based on my own experience.

How to find housing in Santa Barbara

There are different housing options, such as living in a shared apartment or house with other students, living with a host family, or living in a student residence hall. My experience is living in shared apartments. I found my housing and my roommates from different Facebook groups for SBCC and University of Santa Barbara (UCSB) students. I recommend to start looking early, at least three months before you move, so you have somewhere to live when you come to Santa Barbara. Something you have to be prepared for is to pay a deposit before moving in, which is about the same amount as your monthly rent, but it can be more. And you might not have any furniture when you move in, so you might have to think about that. When I first moved to Santa Barbara, I brought an air mattress to sleep on for the first couple of weeks before I bought a bed. You can also find furnished housing, but that might be more expensive.

Host family

To live with a host family is a great opportunity for you if you are interested in living with an American family. You will get a more personalized experience of the culture and Santa Barbara. The Coral Group provides this option to international students, and they organize social events and volunteer opportunities for the students.

Residence hall

If you are looking to live in a dorm-style type of living, you can live in a student residence hall. These housing opportunities typically provide students with a meal plan and shared housing. They do also have organized activities for the students to engage in.

Neighborhoods in Santa Barbara

There are different cities and neighborhoods to live in within Santa Barbara County. Some of the most common neighborhoods for SBCC students are The Mesa, Downtown, Goleta, and Isla Vista.

The Mesa

If you want to be close to beaches, nice parks, coffee shops, restaurants, and the SBCC campus, the Mesa might be for you. This area is active, as well as casual and peaceful.


This is the heart of Santa Barbara. Here you can find nice restaurants, good shopping, and entertainment. If you want to live where it is more vibrant and energetic, downtown Santa Barbara could be for you. It is not far from SBCC, and you can bike or take the bus to get there within a few minutes.


Are you interested in living where it is less crowded, you might consider living in Goleta. You can find beaches and parks that are less crowded, good bike trails, and nice hiking trails.

Isla Vista (IV)

IV is a student community in Goleta where many students live and is considered to be louder and more active than other neighborhoods. IV is right next to UCSB campus, and it is easy to commute to SBCC by bus. If you are interested in living close to the beach with other students who like to have fun, Isla Vista might be a good fit for you.

I hope you find this helpful when you are looking for housing in Santa Barbara. Here are some videos with more information about housing for Santa Barbara City College students. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for even more content.

Johanna Davidsson from Sweden is an international student at Santa Barbara City College, where she is studying business administration and economics. After receiving her associate degrees, Johanna plans to work one year on OPT and then go back to Sweden to use her experience and knowledge from SBCC to pursue a career and start her own business.

Written by

Johanna Davidsson

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