Depending on the country you’re studying abroad in, the style of optional housing could range between living with a host family, living on your own in an apartment, or in my case, living at a “college” on campus. Note that in Australia they call dorms colleges, so I’m just living at one of the dorms at the University of Queensland. I have been fortunate enough to live on campus at a college known as The International House, which was the best decision I could’ve made for my time abroad. This opportunity has allowed me to experience Australian food and culture that I wouldn’t know of if I didn’t meet and live with locals. Whether it was through learning how the AFL (Australian Football League) is different from the NFL whilst cheering on the Brisbane Lions or even trying vegemite for the first time, I’ve had a blast discovering some of the differences between Australia and the US first-hand.
Pros and Cons
Why would you want to live in a dorm on campus, especially if you’ve gotten used to living in some off-campus apartment at your home university? Well first of all, the opportunity to meet and make amazing friends, many of whom are locals and can give you a unique experience that you would miss out on if you lived on your own or only around other study abroad students.
I’ve personally found that in living at a college with people from all over the world (including many Australians) means that there’s always someone up for an adventure. I’ve had several unplanned adventures to nearby hikes and waterfalls, not to mention the iconic late-night trips to Macca’s (McDonalds) that were only made possible by the convenience of having a bunch of adventurous and fun student neighbors. It’s also convenient that they were able to give me tons of advice for things to do nearby as well as explain some of the biggest differences between the US and Australia that I’ll encounter during my time here. International House has been unique in hosting several events including trips to nearby beaches, sunrise hikes, exploring the Brisbane nightlife and city together, as well as cultural dinners highlighting the diversity existing at this college (including the fanciest ball I’ve ever been to). This is only amplified by the intercollegiate activities at the University of Queensland in which International House residents interact with students living at the other colleges on campus through sporting events, local concerts, talent shows, or classic dances.
Now I could go on and on about the reasons why living at a dorm on campus is an amazing experience, but like everything it does have it’s downsides. Living there typically includes a meal plan so that could feel restricting if you prefer to cook your own meals. For me, this was a relief since I’ve never lived on my own and haven’t had much experience cooking, so I preferred to have that taken care of for me so I wouldn’t worry about it.
My Advice to You
When it comes to deciding where to live when studying abroad, it all comes down to what option best suits you personally. Also, since you’ll be exploring and studying in a new and foreign place, you really won’t (and shouldn’t) be spending too much time in your room anyway. But during your search to make new friends in this new country, you can try your luck with classes, studygroups, clubs, or even sports, but I’ve experienced first-hand that living with people from your host country (as well as those from countries all over the world) is a surefire way to form genuine friendships. Regardless of where you choose, living in such close proximity to other study abroad students or locals will easily lead to lasting friendships. I have lived at International House for only three months now, but it feels like I’ve known some of the people I’ve met here for years. I can’t stress this enough, but if you get the chance to live in a dorm with other students at your university; do it.
Soncy Kaahui was a Biology Major at Scripps College and studied abroad with IFSA on the University of Queensland Partnership Program in Australia in spring 2018. She served as an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To- Study Program.