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【China Daily】Looking for a house away from home

Friday,Jul 28, 2017

Zhang Le (second from right) enjoys a meal with her family and friends at her rented house in the United States. She is a music education doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University. Provided to China Daily

As more young people head abroad to study, the demand for student accommodation is growing rapidly.

"I was not feeling good in the house. My roommate and landlord were not easy to get along with so I moved one month after I arrived in Britain," says Liu Tianyi, a 26-year-old master’s student from Durham University.

In 2015, Liu, a native of Zhuzhou in Hunan province, went to the United Kingdom to study international social work and community development. Before leaving China, she found a house through her friend on Sina Weibo, a Chinese micro blog.

Liu knew nothing about the house until she arrived in the UK.

"The house was on a hill and very far away from downtown Durham. And my landlord was not friendly," says Liu.

"I also had lots of fights with my roommate since he always reported me to the landlord for not sorting the garbage, which I did."

For Liu, life abroad was different from what she had imagined - she was not prepared for the problems.

Today, there are many students like Liu who struggle to find suitable accommodation abroad.

Growing demand

China had 1.26 million students studying abroad by the end of 2015, about 25 percent of the world’s total, according to a report by the Beijing-based think tanks Center for China and Globalization(CCG) and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The overseas student accommodation market has great potential.

"If we look at the rents in cities across the globe, then we’re looking at an industry valued at around $150 billion," says Luke Nolan, CEO of student.com, a platform head-quartered in the UK that provides overseas student accommodation service.

"We’ve also noticed that, in addition to the market for full academic year accommodation, there’s a growing demand for short-term accommodation."

Liu returned to China after a one-year program.

Speaking about her experience, she says that she should have put in more effort in finding a house.

"Taking the initiative is crucial," says Liu.

New media platforms offer a way for students to look for accommodation.

Zhang Le, a 31-year-old music education doctoral student at Pennsylvania State University in the United States, found a house by going online.

"I found a house through Penn State’s BBS," says Zhang, a native of Shuangyashan in Heilongjiang province. "After I got the contact of the landlord, I told him to download WeChat (Chinese messaging app), through which we could communicate."

This helped Zhang to understand the neighborhood and the ways of commute. Now she lives in a two-bedroom house with her husband.

Overseas study is no longer only for the young, as many older students now take along dependants, just like Zhang.

"I had to plan in advance as my husband was to stay with me. I was fortunate to find a good house, but it could be difficult for those who are young," says Zhang.

Even as demand for overseas accommodation by students from China grows, there is still no convenient way to find housing, since this is an industry with both complexity and variety.

"Almost every city in China has students going to a huge range of destinations, including the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, France and Germany," says Nolan.

"Students from different countries have different needs, and the property markets are different, too."

Li Jiabao, a 23-year-old law student from Sciences Po in Paris, says that international students from non-European Union countries need a guarantor to rent a house in France.

"In my four years at university, I was lucky that I had a roommate from Norway in the first year and then a Chinese agency that helped with the guarantor bit, but it was slightly expensive."

Still, not every student studying in France is lucky enough like Li, a native of Shenyang in Liaoning province.

Safety is key

Besides the hardships in finding housing in different countries, safety is one of the main considerations for Chinese students, followed by location and price, according to an overseas student accommodation report by student.com.

As for Zhang, she says: "I suggest that a freshman should live on campus for the first year.

"As for single female students, it would be better to find a roommate instead of living alone."

In addition, colleges sometimes send out information.

Giving her take, Li says: "Location really matters."

Science Po is located a little far from where she lives.

"Some of my classmates lived in nearby cities, which were roughly a one-hour commute," Li says.

Liu emphasizes that finding good accommodation eases the culture shock.

"When I was in the United Kingdom, my roommates always hosted parties on the weekend. I am not the kind of person who socializes very much, so attending the parties helped me to immerse myself in the community," she says.

For a lot of Chinese students, studying abroad is the first time they are away from China or the first time they are living by themselves.

So, when faced with new languages and cultures, it can be quite challenging to adapt.

Nolan says that the notion of "student community" is vital.

From China Daily,2017-07-28
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