Choosing accommodation can be one of the biggest stresses a student faces before abroad. From deciding between going through university housing and navigating your host city’s real estate, to comparing the amenities and prices of all the options, there is a lot to consider.
We personally chose the university housing route because we figured it would be much easier to fill out and submit a housing application to our university and wait for placement. We also thought it would be a good way to meet local students.
This topic is definitely one that that we receive the most questions about, so here are some frequently asked questions and answers about our student accommodation experience at the University of Bristol:
Where did you live in Bristol?
We lived in Hillside Woodside, a self-catered (no prepaid meal plan or points) student house for about 30 students in the Clifton area/neighborhood of Bristol. It was quite a walk from campus (about 1.5 miles), but was mostly flat. Plus, we got to cross the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge every day! Bristol also has university student flats (apartments) and dorm-like residences.
How much did your accommodation cost?
We aren’t sure of the exact cost anymore (and it has probably changed since we were abroad), but the cost per month was about the same as our apartment in Berkeley, where the rent was about $550/person/month for a double. The school should give a couple payment options from paying in full or through a few payments.
What kind of students did you live with? Were they British/local or international/study abroad?
The majority of the students in our house were British students who were “freshers” starting their first year at Bristol. About 10 out of the 30 students were studying abroad from the US, Canada, and even Chile.
Do you recommend catered or self-catered housing?
We recommend getting self-catered accommodation to save money and have more flexibility with your meals.
What common areas did you have?
We had two shared kitchens because Hillside Woodside is essentially a large duplex. We also had two shared common rooms, as well as shared restrooms, which varied between having toilets, showers, or baths.
Did you have to buy your own utensils and kitchen supplies?
Yes. Other than a tea kettle to boil water, everyone bought/brought their own mugs, utensils, plates, bowls, pots, pans, etc. Each room had an assigned cabinet to keep their supplies and non-refrigerated food in. We got all of this stuff at Wilkinson’s, which is a UK equivalent of Target.
What did your bedroom come with?
Our room came with all of our furniture (beds, desk, wardrobe/closet, drawers) and a sink/mirror. We bought hampers and extra clothes hangers once we arrived, also from Wilkinson’s. All of the furniture was of a pretty good size and quality, but the mattresses were absolutely horrific! We could feel the springs with every movement and by the end of the semester, they were pretty deformed. It wasn’t enough to cause us to have a bad experience, though. We survived.
Should I purchase the bedding pack in the University of Bristol’s housing application or buy bedding when I arrive?
We recommend buying your bedding (duvet, sheets, pillow cases) when you arrive. You can find bedding in the home section of Primark or at Wilkinson’s, where it will probably be better quality, cheaper, and cuter than the one you buy through the university.
Where did you do your laundry?
We used a shared washer and dryer located in one of the kitchens. We bought detergent and dryer sheets from… yes, Wilkinson’s.
Did you have Wi-Fi?
We didn’t have Wi-Fi, but some other accommodations do. We used Ethernet cables to connect to the Internet in our room instead. The rooms may have come with cables, but it doesn’t hurt to bring one from home that is extra long for a bit more portability within the room. We actually didn’t mind having no Wi-Fi, because it allowed us to socialize with our housemates in the common room.
What’s the difference between a “double bed” and a “shared” room?
A double bed refers to the size of the bed, which means it’s like a US full-sized bed. It doesn’t have anything to do with the number of people in a room, so you could be living in a single room with a double bed. A shared room, which we in the US would call a double, is a room shared by two people.
Did most people live in singles or shared rooms?
We found that most rooms in the UK are singles. Initially, we were assigned to our own singles but decided to move into a shared room instead. Which leads into the next question…
Can you change your accommodation after you arrive?
YES. Getting your housing changed can’t be 100% guaranteed, but if you are unhappy with your housing, talk to your host university’s accommodation office and find a way to move. Luckily for us, Joanne was assigned to a huge single that used to be a double (so it had all of the proper furniture), so we just needed to have some paperwork approved. A couple of our friends were unhappy with their accommodation (for example, our friend did not like her placement in Stokes Bishop because it’s extremely far from campus and at the top of a hill), and while it took a few weeks, they were able to find new housing. Most likely, you will only get one semester or year abroad, so don’t spend it hating your living arrangements.
Although we can only speak from our experience with our particular accommodation at the University of Bristol, but we hope this helps you choose and plan your living arrangements, especially if you are going to the UK.
If you have questions about other accommodations or about finding independent housing in a particular city, leave a comment or contact us and we’ll try to find and provide the answers!