Housing search difficult for UI students studying abroad

By Eric Anderson

Before students bid adieu to Champaign-Urbana for a semester abroad, they must search for a semester of campus housing so they don’t return to find themselves living on the streets.

“(Finding housing for one semester) is very hard,” said Esther Patt, coordinator of the tenant union program. “The people who are successful at it are the students who study abroad fall semester and then come back in the spring.”

Since 2005, jumping enrollment at the University has snatched residence hall rooms from students banking on spending their non-abroad semester in certified housing. Most landlords also require yearlong apartment contracts, forcing students to search for a semester of housing and to coordinate with roommates and friends.

Spencer Masterson, a peer advisor for the Study Abroad Office, recommends that students take advantage of the Study Abroad Office’s housing board. The housing board allows students to advertise specific housing needs and then network with other students who can meet those needs.

“If a student had leased for a year and wanted to study abroad for fall semester, we have a board where they can put their information,” Masterson said.

“Within the first week (of putting the board online), there were over forty posts,” said Sarah Gleisner, outreach coordinator for the Study Abroad Office. “It just blew up.”

Other strategies include studying abroad in fall to take advantage of housing that frees up in spring.

“If you add up all the students who graduate in December and all the students who study abroad or student-teach spring semester, there is a glut of available housing spring semester,” Patt said.

There is a big need for fall-semester-only housing that is not being met, she added

Patt offers several strategies to help students planning on going abroad secure campus housing.

Subletting a vacancy is one solution, said Patt, but students must be diligent in ensuring that their apartment replacement will follow through on the contract.

Students who fail to sublet or sublet to an irresponsible person might have to pay a semester’s rent even while abroad.

“Those are the good people,” Patt said. “A lot of people walk out on roommates.”

As a solution, Patt recommends that a student aiming to study abroad find someone looking to study abroad the opposite semester.

Students can also try to fit three people in a two-bedroom apartment. Many campus apartments were built in the 1960s and ’70s when it was common practice for students to rent two-bedroom, three-person apartments. Patt said it is likely that landlords who have those two-bedroom apartments will agree to rent them to three people because they used to do it.

After spending a semester in Manchester, England, Mike Thayer, junior in Business, said he was able to return to housing at his fraternity. He said that some students spent fall abroad without securing spring housing and had to find a spot using the Internet.

“Subleasing was pretty hard because they’re abroad and they can’t talk to anyone except over the Internet,” Thayer said. “To go abroad you really have to plan it out ahead of time.”