Finding somewhere to live for both semesters this year has been one of the hardest and most stressful things I’ve ever been through. If you’ve been on/are on a year abroad, you’ll know (unless you’ve been extremely lucky). Looking back, I was definitely very lucky when I finally found my flat in Lyon after a whole summer of searching, which was literally 5 minutes away from my university and basically in town. However, Germany has been a completely different story. After a good month of looking, I managed to find a flat that I could move into here in April, and long story short, a few days after arriving the landlord simply decided to cancel on me with little explanation. Luckily, I booked an Airbnb for the month as I couldn’t move in until April, so I had just over 3 weeks to find somewhere, which I managed to after a week. Still, it is very scary to think that you are in a foreign country with nowhere to live!
I’d say the most important thing is to start looking early! However, everyone has different definitions of what ‘early’ is; I learnt that even starting looking 4 months before isn’t early enough! Also bear in mind if you’re going to a big city or a capital city, this will need to be even earlier. I think the best option if you’re going to be studying is to stay in the university halls, especially if you’re going to 2 places for 1 semester each as it’s a lot harder to find somewhere to live for just one semester. Also, if you have friends that are going to the same university or who are even just going to be in the same city as you then it is definitely a lot easier to try and find somewhere together than it is for just one person! Another important thing is to be aware of scams, which sometimes are quite hard to pick up on. The most common I’ve seen are people making excuses for why they can’t show you the flat for example they are out of the country, saying they’ll ‘post the keys to you’, and asking for the rent in cash.
Germany is a lot tougher than France to find somewhere to live, from what I’ve heard and in my experience anyway. This is mainly because when you want to get a room in a shared flat (A WG, as they call it), people will literally hold proper interviews to see if you’d be a good flatmate. They call these WG ‘castings’ which sounds scary enough in itself. I only went to one, but it was one of the most awkward experiences I’ve ever had – I’ve had easier job interviews! This makes your search a lot harder when you’ve got to compete with lots of others, since when was simply getting there first and having the money for an apartment not enough? The most popular website is wg-gesucht.de, which I found very useful but be warned, I sent 50+ replies to adverts on there every single day and got under 10 replies in a week, it really takes patience. Also, simply looking for adverts on Facebook can sometimes work.
As I mentioned, I was a lot luckier in France than I was here. I managed to find a flat through a letting agency called ‘Chez Nestor’, who rent all the rooms out separately in a flat which uncomplicates things a lot. Although they are 100% overpriced, they make everything very easy, so are at least worth checking out. Other useful websites include ‘Appartager’ and ‘La carte des colocs’ but are also quite hard to get a reply off adverts.
Thanks for reading!