Are you aiming to study in Sydney next year?
Perhaps you’ve been advised to arrange temporary accommodation for your arrival and then start the search for a rental or on-campus room once you arrive. Perhaps you’ve been advised not to start your accommodation planning until you have your university offer in hand.
Just a few years ago, the above was perfectly suitable advice. But in the past five months, thousands of international students found themselves in the destabilising position of having nowhere to land in Sydney, and a lack of support to find somewhere.
The international student experience is difficult enough: culture shock, social isolation, navigating a foreign education system, adjusting to independent living and building a local support network are just some of the obstacles that students commonly face. But add in housing instability, and one’s vulnerability in their first year of living abroad increases tenfold.
Sydney is the amidst the rental crisis of all crises. And thousands of international students have found themselves scrambling to take up whatever was leftover for them, often accepting living conditions that simply aren’t acceptable. There have been cases of international students having limited choices other than to remain in unhealthy or dangerous living situations due to the inability to find alternatives. The impact of these experiences on international students’ mental health and academic outcomes can be devastating.
With Sydney’s median rent prices having increased by 24 percent in the first three months of 2023, and now sitting at well over $620 per week for apartments, the demand is extremely high, and supply is very low.
Every residential college of the University of Sydney (1000+ rooms) was oversubscribed for the 2023 academic year, well before the end of 2022. This meant that hundreds of late applicants (who applied to colleges after receiving their university offers) missed out on a room at College – where the abovementioned obstacles for international students tend to hit a little less hard given the lifestyle convenience and social, academic and cultural supports in place.
There are many reasons for the rental and accommodation crisis – Australia’s Reserve Bank has increased interest rates, causing many landlords to dramatically increase rents, and the mass return of international students to Australia has shocked the rental market after it found itself adapting during the rather lonely pandemic. This isn’t expected to improve for some time.
But don’t stress just yet. Whether studying in Sydney next year is your first or third option, there are things you can do now to gain some peace of mind and ensure you will have a smooth start to your time as an international student in this beautiful city!
We’re sharing with international students our top tips for landing accommodation before you arrive in Sydney.
What to look for in accommodation
Proximity to your university
If you’re studying at The University of Sydney, UTS, ACU or Notre Dame, you’re going to want to stay as close to the city or Inner West as possible. For Macquarie Uni, look at Sydney’s northern suburbs or the northern beaches. For UNSW, check out the inner-east and eastern suburbs. Living a little further out from your university campus isn’t the end of the world if there’s an easy public transport route that you can see yourself managing regularly – we recommend you research this consideration to ensure you aren’t signing up for a gruelling daily commute with more than one or two train/bus changes.
If your degree has high contact hours, if you’ve never lived independently in the past, or if you want to be somewhere you will meet new people and have the chance to quickly forge friendships, we recommend you start your search with on-campus accommodation – there are self-catered accommodation buildings owned by universities, and independent residential colleges like Sancta that do the cooking and cleaning for you and provide onsite social, sporting, cultural and academic opportunities.
Safety and wellbeing supports
Moving to a new country to study is one of the bravest things an individual can do, and we know it comes with some big challenges.
There are many benefits to living in for-purpose student accommodation near your Uni or on-campus – you will be around other students navigating the same experience as you, and most private providers and colleges have 24/7 resident support systems in place, as well as security systems and social/sporting/cultural calendars. Each residential community has its own culture and it’s worth looking into a few different options to see where you think you will feel most at home and be able to access the support you need to thrive in your studies and life in Sydney.
There are risks in signing on to live in a shared house or apartment with other students or professionals you do not know yet. Issues such as fairness around cleaning, rent increases and personal conflicts can arise, and it can be hard for international students to engage the appropriate support to resolve these problems. We recommend you consider your level of previous experience with share-housing, and find a way to meet your potential housemates before moving in. This could be a video call including a tour of the property if a physical visit isn’t possible.
Detail, clarity and comfort is key!
In summary, it’s best to get in early
We recommend you begin your enquiries as soon as possible – find out what the application processes are for the on-campus options at your preferred university; start checking out commonly used platforms for shared rentals such as flatmates.com.au, and take a look at the accommodation webpages on university websites to see all of the on and off-campus options available.
Look for flexibility
Accepting an offer at a college, or signing a contract with a student accommodation provider can feel uncomfortable if you don’t have your university offer in-hand. But residential colleges and other student accommodation providers are already receiving above-average numbers of applications for next year and it’s only April – this shift means it’s better to be building your options before you are 100% sure of your admission.
Accommodation providers who understand the challenges facing international students for next year will be looking at ways to provide you with flexibility around when and how you formally (and financially) commit to living with them next year.
At Sancta, we’ve adapted our admissions process in order to make it easier for students to reserve their place at College prior to receiving their university offer.
We’ve waived the application fee, so from filling out an application through to your interview, you aren’t required to pay anything. Then, once you receive your residential offer to Sancta, we will work with you to assign a flexible deadline for paying your acceptance fee and fully committing to residence for 2024. We understand that different faculties and universities operate on different timelines, and for different cohorts of students (ie. domestic vs international).
Scholarships – you won’t know if you don’t try!
There are scholarships available through universities, residential colleges and private student accommodation providers, and each organisation has its own process and timeline for these. We recommend you take some time to understand what you may be eligible for, and put your best foot forward.