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Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

October 20, 2016

Students: Housing Search Hampers Study Abroad

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While losing a friend in the stressful process of finding a Collegetown apartment is on the list of 161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do, students studying abroad often have even more trouble securing housing.

Kevin Rodin ’19, is in a much better place than many of his peers in procuring housing. Planning to go abroad next spring, Rodin said he will live in his fraternity house for the fall 2017 semester.

“Since you don’t have to deal with a landlord, and you know that you can have a room for a semester and then just leave, it is certainly easier to figure out living situations,” Rodin said.

Although living in a Greek house is an option for a limited number of students who go abroad, many Cornellians venturing away from campus struggle to find housing for just one on-campus semester. Over 388 students went abroad last spring, according to Cornell Abroad, and many of these individuals struggled to solidify a plan for their time at the University.

Director of Cornell Abroad Marina Markott said that Cornell Abroad has started highlighting the need to plan ahead for housing at their information sessions for first year students, because so many found the process challenging.

“The important thing is for students to start thinking about housing choices before they finalize plans for study abroad since leases may be signed long before abroad applications are due,” she said.

Financial Challenges

Facing financial pressure, Nora Rabah ’18, who is going to Copenhagen this spring, said she knew that she had to find someone to take over her lease in order to go abroad.

“If I had not found a subletter, I honestly might not have been able to go abroad,” Rabah said. “It’s a lot of money to lose, and I don’t think I would be able to do it.”

Rabah said it can be difficult to sublet apartments in advance, because students will not have access to the apartment they want to sublet for an entire year, which can make interested parties unwilling to show interest or commit to a lease.

While Rabah said she was able to successfully sublet her apartment, the financial concerns she faced to cover her costs while abroad is common among students.

“Although we never know all the reasons why students may cancel their plans to study abroad, we occasionally do have students drop out when they find they cannot get someone to sublet their apartment in Collegetown,” Markott said.

Markott added that the University does not know how many families continue to pay rent for a vacant Collegetown apartment while students study abroad.

“Paying two rents is an untenable situation, and it is clearly not an option for most families,” she said. “The stress of finding subletters clearly adds an extra burden for students. Luckily, students who live on campus do not face these issues.”

While some students sign leases even while they know they are going abroad, others, like Mary Louise Dubose ’19, are too afraid of the financial commitment.

“What makes [figuring out housing] even harder is that if I do get an apartment and try to sublet, I’ll have to sublet for a super reduced price due to the amount of apartments that will be available in the spring from other students going abroad,” Dubose said.

Most students go abroad in the spring, making more apartments available at that time of year and giving an advantage in subletting to students who go abroad in the fall, according to Markott.

University Resources

For students who are interested in seeking Cornell’s help in the sometimes challenging process of finding a subletter, the University offers an Off-Campus Housing database for students to find subletters or to find apartments to sublet.

“The Off-Campus Living Office offers a variety of resources for students looking for someone to sublet their apartment, including reference materials, an off-campus housing listing database, and an opt-in email discussion list for Cornellians to discuss and share housing experiences and opportunities,” said Diane Kubarek, senior director of communications for student and campus life.

Dubose is currently unsure where she will be living in the fall 2017 semester, and said she is wary of using University resources or housing.

“I don’t see Cornell as the best resource for finding an off-campus apartment,” she said. “I feel like all the University ever wants me to do is spend more money than necessary. I just don’t trust them to help me find affordable housing options.”

Even with these resources available, many students choose tol leave their housing to chance.

“Essentially, I have no set plan and it’s really stressful,” Dubose said. “My backup plan is couchsurfing … Hopefully it all works out.”

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