There’s an awful lot of talk about how expensive university is, but the focus is largely on tuition and not housing. Well, I can’t speak for the poor freshers of 2012 who will be paying thrice what I currently pay for tuition, but for students like myself who started university between 2008-2010, half of the cost of uni goes toward accommodation. As well as the significant financial investment, where you live often defines your university experience.
I bring this up because the housing situation in Lausanne is, to quote university correspondence, catastrophique. I have heard numerous horror stories from former exchange students, from being obliged to live in far-out (though luxurious) apartments at exorbitant rent, to being stuck in B&Bs for weeks on end. I recently received an email saying, not to worry, there is still space in youth hostels and camping sites for arrivals week, in which I might stay before finding somewhere more permanent. This was shortly followed by another saying, oh wait, the hostels are filled up, but there’s still space on the campsite!
I find it shocking that international students are being put in such dire straits. As if it wasn’t hard enough moving to a foreign country and starting university there, without plunking on the additional stress of finding a decent and affordable home in an area you don’t know and most likely have never even visited, wading through contracts, and all in a language you probably are not yet fluent in. Many UK universities, in my experience, also do not have enough space to accommodate the rising numbers of new students every year. However, most at least prioritise international students; so when they arrive, whatever else might (and probably will) go wrong, they will at least have a roof over their heads
Quality is another matter. I’ve always found it astounding how halls can swing from quite swish, newly built en-suite flats to dinghy prison cells with no access to a proper kitchen. There is a corresponding price difference, but accommodation is mostly randomly allocated anyway. Some halls even require the students to move out every vacation. What. The. Hell? Half, if not more, of the loans we are taking out are to cover the costs of where we live. True, the edge can often be taken off even the worst of halls if you are blessed with fun housemates, but still, let us live like human beings!
Let’s not start on private housing. That will require a whole other post.
Oh, just for the record, I’m sorted for housing in September. I managed to nab myself a place in university halls, though that didn’t come without a struggle. I went from initially being assured not to worry, I’d most likely get a logement, to being told six months later that actually, it was a definite NO. (Incidentally, the university housing association is called FMEL. Remove the E and what do you get…?) Well, I’m the type to kick up a fuss if I get short-changed, so I got myself a place in the end, but hundreds of other exchange students won’t be so lucky. Guess that means the flat party’s at miiiine!!
I’m kidding. I’m so, so kidding.