28 June, 2011

Four Month Let!

Last summer Bill, Sarah and I all wrote posts about where we live as an effort to get conversation about housing rolling.  What that turned into was Bill slamming South London (he is a passionate North Londoner, and Sarah and I both live south of the river).  This summer we are taking a new approach.  Sarah has put a poll up on our facebook group so that students can get a jump on organizing groups for housing.  Living in a group is great for cost cutting, and they usually range in size from 3-6 people.  Bill has emailed a document with information about housing in his last group email.  Have a look at it and start preparing yourself for the flat-hunt, if that's the route you choose.  There is also info about pre-arranging your housing by going the homestay or dorm route.  These options may cost a bit more than a flat found during the first week, but you can usually move right in when you arrive.
Spring 2011 flat hunters

The flat hunt is something of an ICLC tradition.  For many of you it is something you have never done before, and you will continue using the skills you pick up throughout your life when finding a place to live.  Bill, Sarah, Heather and I are here to coach you all the way, so even though you will be swimming in the deep end, we have never known any students not to make it out the other side of the flat-hunt.  For some of you signing your name to a lease may be the first time you have put your name to anything other than an email account.  A lot of students mature significantly while flat hunting.

The story of my group's flat-hunt nearly a decade ago has gone down into ICLC folklore.  In some versions of the story we were wandering the streets of London like 6 hungry, homeless students.  In other versions we lived in a palatial, penthouse flat.  Just to clarify, it's all true, with a little exaggeration.  Yes, we were all theater majors, yes, life was all drama, but just remember, Drama is something people can major in.  Looking back, the real issue was that our friends were housed and we were not (for much of the week).  In reality  we had options.  We saw a lot of flats, and we said No to a lot of flats.  The flat that we finally settled on was one that seemed too good to be true.  Until the estate agent explained that the owner was desperate to let her flat, so much so that she had reduced the rent, we thought it might be a scam.  From Tuesday morning when we first saw it until Thursday afternoon when we decided to revisit the flat, the time that passed felt like an eternity of never ending flat viewings.  We signed Friday morning and enjoyed a lovely weekend of moving in and finding a local grocery store.  I can't remember if this predated Google, but it definitely predated having internet in our flat, so we had to find a store on foot.  Three of us went left and three of us went right and the group that found a supermarket phoned the other and tried their best to give directions.  Again, more drama ensued.

Most students find flats in the first couple days.  Everyone finds something by the end of the week.  This is one of the most frequently read responses in our evaluations when we ask, What 3 things do you think are essential for us to tell you when you first get here?  The Spring 2011 group said, "I think it was important to hear everyone say that we would find a flat no matter what because everyone was so nervous about it", "Don’t stress about housing, you WILL find a place to live", "Don’t panic, you will find some place to live and you will figure out how to get around".  A few people have asked to see what the private landlords that we have contact with have available already.  We will post this information when you arrive.  It changes so quickly that orientation week is the earliest we can give you accurate information.  Students have tried to prearrange with private landlords in the past and have been disappointed with the flats they discovered they had signed for without seeing.  This is mostly a question of expectations and we recommend that you see what is being offered before putting anything on paper.

Things you can do before you arrive:
1. Find people to live with.  Remember that it is only four months and that you will probably be out enjoying London and traveling more than you will be hanging out in your flat.  We have set up a facebook group called Ithaca College London Center Fall 2011, which you are welcome to use to meet the other students coming over.
2. Think about how you will access your money.  At the end of the first week here you will need to pay 1 month's rent in advance AS WELL AS your security deposit (a few weeks worth of rent).  This is a lot of money and most people pay it in cash (check out the previous post about accessing your money while abroad).  Keep an eye on the exchange rate at www.oanda.com.
3. Do a bit of research on areas in London.  Recently we have had students living in Bayswater, Edgware Road, Hammersmith, Fulham, West Kensington and even a group in Kilburn.  Go to www.tfl.gov.uk and become familiar with the tube map.  You can also research bus routes from there.  Buses that stop near the London Center are the 49, 74, 430 and C1.
This is how excited you will be when you are done flat hunting!

Most importantly, stay open minded and enthusiastic.  You are here to experience life in London.  It will probably be like nothing you have ever done before and nothing you will do again.

-Claire

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