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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Do you know of any websites or agencies where foreign students can find a place to stay?? 

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"Dear Ai, I have a question for you. My friends’ daughter is coming to Vancouver from Australia this fall. I was asked to find a place for her, but I don’t know where to start. Do you know of any websites or agencies where foreign students can find a place to stay before they come to Vancouver? By the way, she doesn’t want to stay with a homestay family." Michelle – Vancouver

Hi Michelle, as for your friend’s daughter, English is not a problem, so I will explain an ESL students‘ situation first for my other “Dear Ai” audience and then I will answer your question.

I found two types of international students during my counseling regarding accommodation.

One group is the “first-timer studying abroad” student. They do not have any relatives or friends in the foreign country. They do not know how to prepare their visa documents, find schools or accommodation. So they visit travel agencies or school agencies in their country to look for information regarding studying abroad. Agencies usually charge for this service. I’ve heard from Japanese students that they pay from $300 to $2000! Using these types of agencies is great for busy students who do not have enough time to do research. Also, agents usually collect great information about the country from past students they have sent.

The other group is the “do-it-yourselves.” This is a time-consuming process and sometimes students are overwhelmed. Because their English level is too low or they can only stay a short-term, many owners (typically apartment owners) do not want to rent to them.
Usually advanced students check classifieds in local newspapers on the ‘net. The Vancouver Sun is a great site to start. They update daily and have current accommodation and roommate information; however, there are no photos. The Simon Fraser University website has an excellent classified section with photos.

Finding accommodation requires some conversational-level English. You have to negotiate with owners in English! If you are a lower level, I recommend contacting either your school or agencies who can help you, and most importantly, they can give you a hand if you are in trouble!

The Vancouver Homestay is a great homestay company that I have dealt with over the years. They offer both homestay and apartment rental. They can listen to your requests (such as furnished house, monthly rental, stay with pet etc…) and find a suitable place for you. They also send photos of the place, so you can see what the place looks like before you sign up.

In her case, she can stay at a youth hostel a few weeks when she arrives here. I have many students who stay this way and make friends/meet future roommates. Hostels in Vancouver are pretty reasonable; however, they are sometimes located in areas that are unsafe at night. Make sure she asks about the location and reputation of the youth hostel. I always research “Google Groups” to see what other people think about specific accommodations.

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