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What accommodation options do I have as an international student?

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When you move to another country for your studies, choosing the right accommodation option for you is of utmost importance. Where you live while you study abroad will be your base and will therefore have a large impact on your experience as a student abroad.

Factors to consider when choosing your housing include privacy, comfort, closeness to your campus, whether you wish to live with your fellow students, price and ease of securing a place.

We have looked at several popular study abroad destinations worldwide to give you an idea of what accommodation options you can expect when you begin looking for your student housing.

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In recent times, some cities in larger international study destinations such as the Netherlands and Germany have struggled to meet demand for student housing, so starting your search for housing earlier is becoming ever more important.

Student accommodation in the UK

The main type of student accommodation for undergraduate students in the UK at larger public universities tends to be halls of residence, which are purpose built accommodation buildings, usually owned and run by the university. Universities will usually have several halls of residence buildings for you to choose from across several different locations near to the main university campus.

There are also privately owned and operated purpose built halls of residence buildings, operated by companies such as Unite, who provide homes for students across multiple locations in the UK.

The alternative to halls of residence for student accommodation in the UK is private rented, off-campus accommodation. Private rented accommodation is also a more common option for students at universities based in cities where the housing market is more competitive, such as London, where demand for spaces in halls of residence can often outstrip the supply.

Halls of residence at UK universities

Staying at halls of residence is perfect if you wish to surround yourself with your fellow students and get involved in student events and student life in general, making friendships that will last beyond your time together at university.

The fees for staying at halls of residence usually include any bills you would be expected to pay such as utilities and internet, and you will usually be located in a convenient location to attend your university campus, with solid transport links usually provided by your university.

There are usually a range of pricing options available to you at a hall of residence, reflecting the facilities available to you. Cheaper options usually include a single bed and shared bathrooms, whilst more expensive options may include en-suite bathrooms and larger beds.

Privately operated halls of residence are a great option if your university accommodation is over subscribed, as can be the case in cities where property is at a premium such as London, or if you have missed out on your first choice of accommodation. For example, University College London partners with Unite to offer students discounted rates at Unite halls of residence.

When should you apply for halls of residence?

Like all accommodation options in this guide, you should apply for a place in a UK university hall of residence as soon as you can to ensure that you have the best choice of the options available to you.

The earliest you can usually apply for a place at a halls of residence is when you have received an offer to study at that university. This will usually mean you have received an offer letter, which includes a unique university ID that you can then use in the application process. 

Private accommodation for students in the UK

If halls of residence are not available at your chosen university, or if you feel that they aren’t for you, the other housing option for students living in the UK is private rental housing. Many students may also choose to live in private accommodation after one or two years of living in halls of residence, as they wish to explore more of the surrounding area and having formed friendships that they wish to continue in a flat-share accommodation.

The types of property available when renting privately vary greatly, will all be off-campus and will not be laid with student life in mind as they are at halls of residence. They may include rooms in a shared house, or flats or apartments. Your budget will dictate the type of accommodation available to you, as will the geographical location and local housing market.

How to find private accommodation as a student in the UK

Most UK universities provide their students with assistance and guidance for finding suitable private accommodation. Some universities offer their own housing services to help place students in suitable private accommodation, which will feature property landlords that the university has approved.

Other universities may suggest student specific accommodation search services and any private accreditation schemes that you should look out for, along with advice on tenancy agreements. You may also wish to use other third party rental services, but if doing so you should make sure as far as possible that the landlord is suitable, that you are very familiar with the locations you are looking at and whether the properties are suitable for university students.

See more: Study in the UK

Student accommodation in the USA

The most popular accommodation option for undergraduate students in the USA is living on campus in residence halls. Many universities in the USA expect first year students (freshman) to live on campus, whilst the majority of undergraduates elect to remain on campus after their first year.

Living on campus puts you in the center of the action, surrounds you with your friends and colleagues and ensures that you get the most out of your experience at university.

Graduate students may also elect to live on campus, although spaces tend to be more limited.

The alternative to living on campus is private rented apartments. If you are an undergraduate student, you may need to apply for permission from your university to live off campus.

Residence halls for students in the the USA

Residence halls often form a main part of the experience for students at US universities. Most larger private and public universities will operate dorm-like apartments dedicated to providing their students with safe and comfortable living conditions, all conveniently located close to the university campus buildings.

Whilst single bed rooms are sometimes an option, students will usually be expected to share a room, with between 2-4 beds common in a single dorm room. This is to encourage students to help one another adapt to college life, and ensure that all students develop good social habits during their studies. Fees for residence halls tend to vary depending on amenities, such as bathrooms, bed size and location.

Fees for residence halls will cover all utility costs. Whilst you live on campus, you may be expected to enroll on a university meal plan. Meal plans usually come with several options varying in price and food options, but will all ensure that you are well fed during your studies. Students that live off campus are usually welcome to sign up to meal plans on campus should they wish.

Living off campus in the USA

Once you have completed your first year at university in the USA (sophomore) you can explore living off campus if you wish. This means that you will be looking at private rented accommodation, usually with no affiliation to the university. Your university will be well placed to offer lots of advice on renting and also a selection of properties to rent, along with providing assistance, should you require it, to find other roommates to rent with.

Private accommodation can be a great opportunity as an international student to soak up more culture in the area surrounding your university, perhaps in a more diverse environment than living on campus.

Living off campus means that the onus is on you to ensure that the accommodation you pick is suitable for you, the university will not be able to guarantee its suitability for you and your studies. It is therefore important to spend sufficient time on your search. The types of apartment available to you will depend on the housing market in the local area and your budget, but may be rooms in shared apartment blocks or even shared houses.

Also bear in mind that private accommodation will not come with cleaning services and you may be expected to arrange to cover costs for utilities such as electricity and internet.

See more: Study in the USA

Student accommodation in Germany

In Germany, enrollment on a university course does not entitle you to accommodation, and most German universities, even large public universities, do not operate or offer on-campus accommodation.

Some universities do offer on-campus accommodation, such as the private university Constructor University, which offers on-campus living for undergraduate and pre-degree students across its 4 residential colleges.

You may be able to find accommodation with a Studentenwerk, depending on location in Germany. A Studentenwerk is a public organization that provides support for students in the form of dormitory accommodation, food and medical support. Often a Studentenwerk will support multiple universities in the local area, so you may mix with students from other universities.

Examples include the University of Freiburg, where students are able to secure accommodation in dormitories owned and run by Studierendenwerk Freiburg (SWFR) and Heidelberg University, where students can live in dorms run by Studierendenwerk Heidelberg.

For many university students in Germany, their main option for accommodation is private rented accommodation.

Finding private accommodation for students in Germany

Many university towns find themselves struggling with demand for student accommodation at present, so starting your search early for private housing is very important once you have been offered a place at university.

Your university will offer lots of assistance with the process of finding accommodation, and can advise online search services for finding accommodation. If at all possible it is very important to arrange a viewing appointment to make sure the accommodation fits your needs, though this may not always be possible.

The types of private accommodation you will find include shared rooms in apartments, single rooms in shared apartments or private studio apartments. Shared rooms tend to be the cheapest option, followed by single rooms in shared apartments, with shared kitchens and bathrooms. Living with others is a great way of making friends and finding others to support you during your studies, and this arrangement may also be the most straightforward way of finding accommodation.

Studio apartments will be among the most expensive options for private housing, but will suit you if you require private bathroom and kitchen facilities.

You may need to go through the process of applying for a few different accommodation options before you are successful, but you will find somewhere, so don’t be discouraged. Private landlords are likely to ask for a security deposit upfront, but try to ensure that you are dealing with a well known and reputable landlord before you part with any money or send any documentation. Demand for accommodation is the highest at the start of term, so the sooner you start your search, the better choice you will have.

See more: Study in Germany

Student accommodation in Italy

Options for student accommodation in Italian universities can vary greatly between universities. Most universities in Italy do not own and run their own halls of residence, but many offer international students the opportunity to stay in private dorms. Beyond this, many universities rely on their students finding private accommodation.

Residences for international students in Italy

The option to stay in halls of residence when attending university depends on the university you have chosen. For example, the University of Pisa does not have a central campus and its students all rent private accommodation.

There are, however, plenty of opportunities to stay in halls of residence when attending university in Italy, depending on the university. Examples include The University of Milan, which has up to 1,000 spaces for students consisting of single or double rooms. Politecnico di Milano offers the Loos Hall of Residence in Lecco, which offers 200 single and double rooms to students, and La Presentazione Hall of Residence in Como, which offers 159 student places, and several halls of residence in Milan.

There is also the possibility of a halls of residence operated by regional institutions in Italy dedicated to the right to higher education. These organizations will usually be able to offer housing to those students that are living away from home. These include the University of Padua, where the ESU of Padova offers over 1,600 beds across 10 different locations. For students of the Polytechnic University of Turin and the University of Turin, EDISU Piemonte operates public university halls of residence. At the University of Bologna, The regional authority is named ER.GO and operates halls of residence available to international students.

The types of halls of residence offered by these regional institutions will vary, but will usually include single rooms and shared rooms and services such as laundry and WiFi, common rooms and shared kitchens.

Private accommodation for students in Italy

You may elect to live in private accommodation when you attend university in Italy, and at many universities this may be your only option. Competition for accommodation can be tough at the start of term time, so try to start your search early. Universities will be able to offer advice on local services to use to find your accommodation. The usual option is to share accommodation with other students, which helps to keep your costs down.

The options you can expect for private accommodation include single or double rooms in a shared house, with between two to five housemates common. Usually rooms come  with shared kitchens and bathrooms, although more expensive accommodation options will allow you to pick larger beds, private bathrooms and perhaps better locations for your university. Rooms will often include WiFi but you will usually be asked to pay a deposit up front and a flat rate each month on top of your rent to cover utilities.

See more: Study in Italy

Student accommodation options in Australia

There are three main options for student housing in Australia, and they are on campus, homestay and off campus accommodation. Types of on campus accommodation in Australia include dormitories, shared flats and studio flats.

Homestay accommodation offers international students the rare opportunity to experience what it is like to live within an Australian family home. This can help students to settle in their new country, improve their language skills, and learn what Australian culture is like in a way that they might not otherwise be able to in student halls.

Off campus accommodation for students in Australia can take the form of private rented accommodation or purpose built, privately run student accommodation halls.

On campus accommodation for students in Australia

On campus accommodation offers students the chance to experience the best of university campus life in Australia. As well as being surrounded by your fellow students, you will be able to take part in social events, have great access to your classes and will have a safe and comfortable space in which to sleep and study.

Most on campus accommodation in Australia is self catered, so you will be expected to cook for yourself, and occasionally treat yourself to takeaway food from vendors on campus.

Your room will usually come fully-furnished with WiFi, access to laundry facilities, security services, common areas where you can socialize with other students and may also provide access to sports areas and gyms, music practice rooms and shared study spaces.

The types of rooms available for on campus accommodation include shared apartments, where each student will have a room of their own with a bed, and shared kitchen and toilet facilities. Shared apartments and flats may have anything between 4-8 bedrooms. You may be able to find single room apartments, where you will have a room of your own with a bed, a private bathroom and shared kitchen facilities. Studio apartments are also sometimes available, where you have your own private bathroom and kitchen facilities. These options are the most expensive.

The fees for on campus accommodation usually cover your utility bills, internet access and access to events. They may also include gym membership, depending on your university.

Homestay accommodation for international students in Australia

Homestay accommodation gives international students the opportunity to stay with an Australian family during their studies. This gives international students the chance to adapt to a new culture as members of a family, with their own room and food provided along the way.

Homestays are arranged on your behalf either by the university or an independent organization such as the Australian Homestay Network, which partners with many Australian universities. Pricing for a homestay will vary depending on the region in which you are staying, but will usually cover your accommodation and food costs, internet access and utilities. You will be matched with a host family based upon your preferences as best as possible.

Off campus student accommodation in Australia

An option for students who want off campus accommodation in Australia is private student housing as provided by companies such as UniLodge, Scape, Student One and Uniresort. These provide purpose built student accommodation, providing both private and shared rooms and facilities to appeal to students such as gyms, common spaces with games rooms and music rooms, laundry facilities and shared outdoors spaces.

Private student residencies like this tend to be located near to university campuses, some within walking distance, and are often recommended as off campus options by your university. Available rooms will include studio apartments, two bed and four bed shared apartments. En-suite bathrooms are common, with shared kitchens the norm. Your budget and availability will dictate your choice of room. Living in private accommodation like this will ensure you can still experience the social benefits of living with other students. Well appointed off campus accommodation can often be more costly than on campus student dormitories, but fees will cover bills such as utilities and internet access.

Smaller private universities such as Collarts may be able to recommend options and advice for finding local private rental accommodation, as well as help finding flatmates. Private rented accommodation can include anything from whole houses to single rooms in shared flats. Your budget will dictate the options and locations available to you, and it pays to begin your search early in preferred suburbs. Do bear in mind that you will also be expected to pay additional costs such as utility bills and internet access.

See more: Study in Australia

Student accommodation in New Zealand

Similarly to Australia, three types of accommodation are available to international students in New Zealand. You may choose to live on campus in halls of residence, an apartment or shared flat. You can opt to stay with a family off campus in a homestay accommodation. Alternatively you can opt for private off campus accommodation, either renting a whole house or sharing a house, known in New Zealand as Flatting.

On campus student accommodation for students in New Zealand

You will find residential accommodation options at most public New Zealand universities. These may be on or near campus, usually within walking distance. Most will offer single rooms in a halls of residence setting, with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. You will also be able to find flatting setups, with 2-6 single rooms per flat and shared facilities. More expensive options may also be available as studio apartments. Most rooms will come fully furnished, so you only need to bring bedding and towels.

Residential accommodation options at New Zealand universities may include self-catering and catered options, with catered options supplying all your meals, but costing more. Facilities will include internet access, sports facilities and gym access, libraries, and communal areas.

You can often elect to live in residential accommodation at New Zealand universities throughout your entire study period if you choose. Living in residential accommodation can provide the ideal conditions for study and also help you to form lasting friendships that go beyond your time at university.

Homestay accommodation in New Zealand

Homestay accommodation is ideal for international students who like the idea of family life to help them settle in a new country and to help them practice a new language. As a homestay student you will be treated as one of the family, provided with three meals a day and also be expected to play your part in family life, helping with the household chores where appropriate. You will be provided with your own room and internet access, storage for your belongings and a suitable study area.

Homestay accommodation, if available, will be arranged by your university, and hosts will be strictly vetted to ensure that they are suitable hosts. You may be placed with a large or small family, but every effort will be made to ensure that you are placed with a host family that suits your requirements. You may stay in homestay accommodation for short periods or up to a whole academic year.

Private accommodation and Flatting in New Zealand

If you do not want to live on campus, you can consider renting private accommodation. There are a couple of ways you can do this. You can rent an entire house or apartment to yourself or you can move into a shared house (known as flatting), either with friends or with other students.

Renting an entire house or apartment is the ideal option for you if you value living alone, or if you are moving to New Zealand with your family. This tends to be the most expensive option for private housing, as you are responsible for the entire rental and utility costs. The type of property that you can rent depends on location, availability and your budget, but you can rent anything from a whole house to a studio apartment.

If you prefer the idea of flatting, you are likely to be looking at a single or double room in a shared house or apartment, usually with shared kitchen facilities. You will sometimes be able to find rooms with en-suite bathrooms, but expect to find places with shared bathrooms as well. You will be responsible for the cost of your rent, along with a portion of utility costs such as water, gas and electricity and internet. Flatting can be a great way of spending time with your friends, and you may find it suitable after spending a year or two living on campus.

As a private tenant you will also be expected to pay a Bond up front, to cover any accidental damage that may occur during your tenancy.

Your university will not be responsible for arranging private accommodation for you, but will be able to advise how to find properties, usually using online property search websites, and will also be able to offer advice about the rental process and what to expect and prepare for. If you plan to rent privately, do consider the distance between the property and your campus, and be prepared to start your search early as some locations can be very popular at the start of term time.

See more: Study in New Zealand

Student accommodation in France

There are several types of accommodation available to international students in France. For those that wish to live together with other students, there are various types of student residences/halls of residence. You can also choose to rent private housing in France. If you are in need of short term accommodation while you find your feet in a new city, youth hostels are an economic solution whilst you search for a more long-term accommodation. You may also choose to stay with a family in France in a homestay arrangement.

Student halls in France

If you are interested in living in student halls in France, you will often find the main option available to you is housing operated by regional public services known as CROUS. CROUS offers, amongst other services to students, university halls of residence for many of the main university cities in France. CROUS housing benefits from lower than average monthly rent and is a very popular choice for students.

For example, if you are planning to study at the University of Burgundy, you can apply to Crous Bourgogne-Franche-Comté for one of their 4,000+ apartments offered to students. Options in a CROUS hall range from a single room with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities, rooms with private showers, to private apartments. CROUS residencies usually offer WiFi, car parking, sports facilities and food vendors.

The full list of CROUS regions includes:

Alternative student hall options to CROUS include privately operated halls of residence. These will vary depending on the location of your university, and your university will usually be able to recommend suitable options for you. Sometimes your university may have partnerships with local student housing companies, offering you preferential rates. Room options in privately operated halls will include studio flats and single rooms with shared facilities. Rooms will usually be fully furnished and you will be able to get the benefits of shared spaces with your fellow students. Privately run halls of residence will be more expensive than CROUS housing, but are a good fallback option if you miss out on a CROUS place.

Private accommodation for students in France

Many students choose to rent private accommodation during their studies. You may choose to rent alone, which is likely to be your most expensive option. Your choice of accommodation when renting alone is likely to be a studio apartment, with a private bathroom and kitchen.

The more economical private accommodation option for students involves sharing a larger flat, known as colocation. You will typically have your own bedroom, but you may have shared facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens.

You are responsible for choosing suitable accommodation if you choose to rent privately, but your university will be happy to point you in the right direction of resources to help you to find your housing, generally these will be in the form of recommended property search websites such as Studapart. You may temporarily wish to rent a room in a youth hostel during your search for accommodation.

When renting privately in France, bear in mind that you will also be responsible for your share of utility bills and security deposit costs when renting privately in France.

Homestay for students in France

For those students who wish to work on their French language skills and like the idea of support from a local family whilst they settle into a new location, homestay accommodation can be arranged via the local CROUS or private services such as CoHomly‌, who will help to place you with a suitable family. Prices may usually be fairly expensive for homestays, but will cover costs such as utility bills, internet access, and in most cases, your meals.

See more: Study in France

Student accommodation in the Netherlands

Demand for student accommodation for both international and domestic students in some cities in the Netherlands is currently outstripping supply, therefore finding accommodation can be extremely competitive. In cities such as Amsterdam, universities are actively recommending students not to come unless they secure suitable accommodation beforehand. The city of Nijmegen is also finding it difficult to house all students. Other cities such as Twente have more suitable accommodation available. Bear this in mind and check with your chosen university before applying to a university in the Netherlands.

As an international student, you are likely to be offered assistance finding accommodation for the first year of your studies. For universities with a central campus, this is likely to be in the form of a room in a halls of residence style shared flat, although spaces will be limited.

If your university is not able to offer you on campus accommodation, your other option is to rent private accommodation.

On campus accommodation in the Netherlands

If your chosen university is able to offer accommodation, it will likely be a room in a shared flat. These shared flats may be in the form of 4-10 rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities, with a shared common area. Rooms may be furnished or unfurnished. Some private  studio apartments may also be available with private bathroom and kitchen facilities, but these will be more expensive. You will be expected to pay rent and a service fee to cover utilities such as electricity and gas.

Private accommodation for students in the Netherlands

If on campus accommodation is not an option for you, private rented accommodation is your other option. With a housing crisis in several student cities, competition is very fierce for housing in the Netherlands. You may need to begin your search for accommodation half a year in advance of beginning your studies, and also should consider looking in regions a little further away than your campus to open up your choice.

Popular methods of finding private accommodation in the Netherlands include housing groups on social media, and property search websites. Your main option is likely to be a room in a shared house or flat, with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Your university will recommend local third party housing platforms to use, along with tips on avoiding scammers. Generally you should absolutely not pay any mediation fees, which are illegal in the Netherlands, and be wary of who you supply with your ID.

See more: Study in the Netherlands

Student accommodation in China

For international students in China, especially first year students, the most popular type of accommodation is on campus student halls, sometimes named student hostels or dormitories. These rooms will provide international students with safe and affordable accommodation, often very close to your place of study.

For students beyond their first year of studies, it is also possible to rent off campus private accommodation.

On campus student accommodation in China

Most of China’s public universities offer students the chance to stay in on campus accommodation, in the form of purpose built flats and dormitories. This is the most common choice for undergraduate students. As an international student, living on campus will help you to settle in China and will surround you with other students in the same position as you. Some universities are able to accommodate a large number of students, for example the Dalian University of Technology has 7 student apartment buildings offering rooms for up to 31,768 students in total.

Housing options in student dormitories in China can vary, but in general your choices will include single or double rooms, with kitchen and bathrooms attached. The costs of water and electricity will generally be included in your fees, along with access to the internet. There will be laundry stations for you to use, although these may not be free. Whilst you live on campus, you are likely to have access to sports facilities and gyms, shared study and social spaces and student events. You will have access to canteens whilst living on campus, which will provide a variety of food for students and staff alike, with some universities even extending the chance to students to work in the canteens to experience Chinese food culture for themselves.

Off campus student accommodation in China

Postgraduate students and undergraduate students who have completed the first years of their studies may feel that they wish to live off campus in private rented accommodation. There are several Chinese websites that students may use to search for private flats and your university will be able to suggest appropriate websites to use in your area. One bedroom studio apartments will be a popular choice, but there is also the possibility of renting larger shared flats with several bedrooms. To live off campus as an international student you should inform your university and you are also required to register your address at the local police station.

See more: Study in China

Student accommodation in Singapore

International students moving to Singapore may have access to on campus housing, but this is dependent on the university that you pick. The National University of Singapore offers several different accommodation options to its students, such as halls of residence, houses, residential colleges, and student residences. Singapore institute of technology integrates residential living into the freshmore experience for their students (Freshman + Sophomore). Beyond that, many students in Singapore live in either public housing, private housing and private co-living spaces.

On campus housing for students in Singapore

The availability of on campus housing for students in Singapore is highly dependent on your university of choice. The National University of Singapore offers multiple on campus options for its students, with halls of residence offering the choice between single rooms or double rooms. Rooms in halls of residence will have access to shared kitchens, laundrettes and shared lounge spaces. In the case of the National University of Singapore, meal plans are mandatory for those staying in halls of residence. Halls of residence at Singapore institute of technology offer either single or double rooms conveniently located next to the main campus building.

Off campus housing for students in Singapore

The most common option for international students for off campus accommodation in Singapore is staying in HDB flats, which is public housing managed by Singapore’s Housing and Development Board. Students will typically rent a HDB from its owner, and prices tend to be affordable in comparison to other private accommodation. HDB blocks tend to be self contained, with all amenities that you would need such as shops, sports facilities and doctors.

You may also look at the private rental market beyond HDB flats, with options available for rooms in shared houses often available. Your university will be happy to provide you with guidance finding a property in which to live during your studies.

See more: Study in Singapore

Student accommodation in Canada

International students wanting to live on campus generally have plenty of options to choose from at Canadian universities, where dorm style and hotel style accommodation options close to campus are very popular. First year undergraduate students in particular will often choose to live on campus in dorms.

Some students prefer to live off campus, and for these students private rental accommodation offers a wide range of options.

On campus housing for students in Canada

Canada’s large public universities provide international students with a wide selection of dormitory style accommodation, often popular with first year students. These buildings will offer students a choice of single rooms with shared bathrooms, double rooms with shared bathrooms and single units with private bathrooms. Communal kitchens, music rooms, gyms and TV lounges will be among common amenities. Living with other students in a dormitory environment is a great way to settle into your studies in Canada, but for those who wish to remain more private, some on campus apartments may also be available.

When living on campus in Canada, you may also be obliged to enroll on a university meal plan – providing you with all meals for 5-7 days of the week.

Off campus rented accommodation in Canada

Some students may elect to live off campus after completing a year or more of their studies, particularly if they are keen to experience the Canadian culture in the surrounding area. Many cities have student friendly neighborhoods in which appropriate rental accommodation can be found.

Your university will be able to help you find off campus rental accommodation, many universities will even provide a rental search on their own websites, so you can be assured that the properties have been pre-vetted and are suitable for students. Options will include shared accommodation and studio apartments, and prices are likely to be higher than staying in on campus accommodation. Consider sharing accommodation with friends to reduce costs.

See more: Study in Canada

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