As an international student, I think accommodation can be one of the biggest factors in the whole process of moving abroad. Finding accommodation in London has been compared to the quest for the lost treasure of Atlantis, and can certainly seem like it. There is so much to consider – location, flat-share/roommate, own bathroom (this was not negotiable for me), meal arrangements. And of course, there is the price – when your potential monthly rent outstrips your annual income, your options become a lot more limited.
I am currently living at Lillian Penson Hall, an intercollegiate hall, and I’d definitely say that I’ve had a great experience living here. Intercollegiate halls are run by the University of London, which means students from other colleges also stay in the halls. A lot of the time, people do not consider intercollegiate halls when applying for accommodation (many of my LSE friends do not even know that they exist), but I would definitely recommend them as an alternative option, especially if you are looking at a student hall of residence.
For me, a major point in favour of intercollegiate halls is that they are catered – I get breakfast and dinner (brunch on weekends) and it is included in my rent. I find this to be time-efficient, possibly cheaper, and quite convenient, especially after a long day at the library. Also, I knew that left to my own devices, I would have to survive on take-outs and my own cooking! I have found the food to be wholesome, reasonably healthy and friendly to vegetarians – much preferable to “food-from-a-box” or stress-induced starvation.
Access to LSE is usually not much of a problem either. My hall, for instance, is only five tube stops from LSE or a very pleasant 50-minute walk right through the heart of London. It has a fabulous location too – about two minutes from Paddington station and two minutes from Hyde Park.
Living in an intercollegiate hall has also given me the chance to meet students from other universities and make some wonderful new friends. I do love LSE, but it is nice to meet new people from other universities – makes for more refreshing conversations. Plus, I find it therapeutic not to talk “shop” (i.e. essays, careers etc.) for a change, which is easier when you are all from different universities. My hall is primarily a postgraduate hall so it is relatively quiet, though we do have parties in the bar (yes we have one!) from time to time, and the bar and games room is open every night.
When applying for accommodation, I decided to be old-school and draw up a chart, listing what was most important for me and what was negotiable, and that helped me eliminate the options. I think eventually, the accommodation search depends on a lot of individual factors (budget, location, budget, room type, budget, length of contract…and oh yeah, budget) but I’d certainly say intercollegiate halls are an option well worth considering.
Good luck house hunting! 🙂