Study Abroad at UCLA| #2: Housing

Recently I’ve been getting so many questions about my experiences at UCLA and the processes leading up to it. The process is a stressful one and that’s exactly why I decided to write this blog post in the hopes that it will help at least one person prepare better for their exchange at UCLA. There will be multiple parts to cover as much information as possible.

A little bit of background info to give you an understanding of what shaped my experiences: I am currently a 3rd and final year student at Utrecht University. I belong to USE (Utrecht University School of Economics) and major in Economics and Business Economics, and minor in Law. I went on exchange to UCLA at the beginning of my 3rd year for the fall quarter of 2016-2017, meaning from September 2016 to December 2016 – so a little over 3 months. My courses started on 22nd September but I left for LA about a week earlier to give myself some time to adjust and take care of all the admin stuff before school started (and I’m so glad I did!).

So assuming you got accepted to go to UCLA and you know your UCLA website ID, password, application ID, and your UCLA student ID number – always keep these handy because you don’t know when you will be asked for it – let’s answer the most frequently asked question “What types of housing options are there and how do I find housing?”.

 

Housing

Broadly there are 3 different options: 1) on campus housing (dorms), 2) off campus housing (apartments), and 3) co-op. In LA housing is expensive and it is common to share your room with one or two people.

On campus housing are the typical American student dorms. You will share the room with 1 (called a double) or 2 (called a triple) people. Dorms are mostly filled with freshmen (1st year) and sophomore (2nd year) students. There are various different types of dorms and you can read all about this on the UCLA housing website or check out this video. If you wish to apply for on campus housing follow the steps below:

  1. Go to UCLA My Housing
  2. Pay the non-refundable $30 application fee online with a credit card (Visa, Master Card, & Discover) or through Automated Clearing House (ACH), which are payments made by using the bank routing numbers from your checking or savings account.
  3. Wait for a housing offer
  4. Accept your housing offer online and select “Access Housing Application & Offers”.  Once logged in, select the “Application” link (located above your “Profile Summary”).  Re-enter the application term. Once an offer has been accepted online, an initial charge will be posted to your BruinBill account, accessible via MyUcla
  5. Make the initial payment. Amounts vary based on the building and room type offered, as well as the meal plan chosen. More information about the UCLA BruinBill for student housing accounts is available here.

Application Notes:

  • Students can apply for the various on-campus housing facilities, as well as University Apartments if classified as transfer level. [UCEAP students are classified as transfer level.]
  • Choose one housing preference on the housing application (facility/room type, roommate, or theme communities).
  • Rank your preferences.

Notification of Housing Assignment: if you followed all the steps a housing contract should be sent to you by email. Housing contracts are sold for the academic year, or the portion remaining at the time offer is issued. Contact Housing Accounts Receivable Office to request a payment agreement if you will not be able to meet the dates and payments required by the contract.

The upside of using this method is that that for exchange students it is pretty much guaranteed that you will get a room. However the downside is that you probably will not have a kitchen and it is mandatory to buy a meal plan (side note: do not get the 19p plan! You will have so many swipes left over by the end of the quarter!!!). Also you cannot drink/party in the dorms. If you choose to live in dorms make sure your room has AIR CONDITIONING! You’ll thank me later. Also you should note that the dorms will not necessarily be any closer to your classes than just regular off campus apartments, what’s more is that the dorms are on a steep hill so it can be a pain to go up and down. Personally I think the dorms are quite expensive for what they are.

For off campus housing there are university apartments or simply independent rentals. Off campus housing is mostly apartments and are more independent – junior (3rd year) and senior (4th year) students live off campus. Most rooms are located in the Westwood area and again it is shared with 1 or 2 people. Often the apartments come with pools or rooftop terraces or gardens, or all of the above.
To apply for university apartments you follow a similar procedure as that of the “on campus housing” but I hear that it’s super competitive.
The off campus independent rental is the housing option that I chose.  I was lucky and actually my friend who already goes to UCLA (hi Katie) found this room for me through a Facebook group.  I would recommend keeping an eye on Facebook groups like “UCLA free & for sale”, “UCLA Housing” and “free & for sale” (and I’m sure there’s lots more) if you want to find a room this way.
My apartment was on Glenrock Avenue and it’s technically only a 5 minute walk to campus, but since I major in Economics all my courses were on the other side of the campus so it took me 30 minutes to walk there – which is not bad except when you have 8am classes. Expect to pay anywhere between $650 and $1100 if you choose off campus housing. I paid about $800 per month (all inclusive) which is quite standard in LA. I lived in a three bedroom apartment with 5 other girls (who were all amazing!) and shared a room with one girl. We had a huge living room, a huge kitchen, a garden, two bathrooms, and built in wardrobes in every room. For reference my friend who lived across the street paid around $1100 per month. Her apartment had a smaller living room, a small kitchen with a bar, one bathroom, and one bedroom but she only shared with one girl. Their apartment came with a pool for the whole complex. My room was a sublet which worked out perfectly because the girl (hi Julie) who sublet the room was doing an exchange in France so our schedules aligned perfectly.
Also if you like to party this is probably the place for you since one street away, on Landfair and Gayley Avenue, are where all the frat houses are! In the States only the fraternities are allowed to host parties and not the sororities. So if you live here all the frat parties will be within (drunk) walking distance. But then again your social life is what you choose to make it – even if you live in dorms you can go to parties or just jam hard in your pjs 😉

The Co-op option is the cheapest but I have heard very mixed reviews from friends who stayed in co-ops. It’s basically a large complex with many students and shared house chores. The pros are that it is cheap and very social and you get to meet a lot of people. But on the flip side, it can be messy and loud. I didn’t apply for co-op because although it’s cheaper I like my personal space.

What I did was I paid the $30 fee at the beginning to apply for UCLA housing, because I hadn’t found a room at the time, but then I found the room via my friend/fb. I would recommend paying the $30 fee because in the grand scheme of things it’s only $30 and if this means that you are guaranteed a room, that’s not a bad deal. Also look for housing as soon as possible – start now – because having an address will tie in with everything, your visa, your bank account, your entry to the US, etc.

Also below are some questions you might consider asking when looking for a room on your own:

  1. What is the address?
  2. Is the room furnished?
  3. Move in date/move out date?
    • Can I move in earlier?
  4. How much is the rent per month, incl. utilities?
  5. When should I pay each month and to whom and where?
    • E.g. The rent must be paid to the landlord by bank transfer before … day of each month.
      Bank:
      Bank account holder:
      Bank account number (including IBAN number): 
  6. Is there a washing machine, dryer, tv and other amenities?
  7. How much is the deposit and what are the conditions for getting it back?
  8. Is there wifi?
  9. Can you send me some pictures of the actual room, or skype?
  10. Size of the room?
  11. What floor is the room on?
  12. How many showers and bathrooms?
  13. How many roommates/flat mates?
    • Their names/ages/genders
    • Room-mate interview questions

**If you do choose off campus housing make sure you have information about the landlord like their name, phone number, email address, office address, etc.

 

Why not sublet your room?

Before going abroad, if you have a room in Utrecht (or the Netherlands) you may consider subletting it. This way you can save on your rent, keep your room whilst on exchange, and potentially help another exchange student out by providing them with accommodation. Of course you’ll have to check if subletting your particular room is legal!

I live in SSH accommodation so I was able to sublet my room quite easily by notifying the SSH. If you live in a SSH building follow this link to find out how you can sublet your room.

Some general steps are:

  1. Place an advert for your room on one of the Facebook groups or UUING
  2. Find applicants
  3. Interview applicants
  4. Select an applicant
  5. Get approval from SSH
  6. Make and Sign a subleasing contract
  7. Receive deposit
  8. Notify the Belastingdienst about your study abroad
  9. Pack up all your stuff and clean the room
  10. Hand over the keys

If you still have any more questions regarding finding accommodation for you study abroad at UCLA feel free to contact me!

 

*Disclaimer: this information is specific to me and based on my personal experiences. Also the information may be time sensitive so I advise you to check the relevant websites for more updated information.

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