In January 2017, I applied to UT dorms after being told that applying by Feb. 1 would guarantee housing. In late-May, after I finished my exams and emailed housing, I was reassured that I would get an offer soon. In July, I received confirmation from my home university about my study abroad place, yet no housing offer. A week before I left, I still had no idea where I was staying.
The international office needs to curate a comprehensive, reliable and affordable housing listing, especially for students arriving from all corners of the globe.
Although the International Student and Scholar Services office offers credible solutions for students to explore, their guidance is often weak and misinformed. Even though on-campus housing is often fully occupied, off-campus options don’t widely offer semester-long leases for exchange students.
This already difficult process is often undergone alone. Amalia Martinez-Botas, a British exchange student from London, said, “I was very disappointed with their lack of rooms for international students.” She now lives in the Kinsolving Residence Hall but only received notification on Aug. 14, two weeks prior to the start of the semester.
Martinez-Botas is one of thousands of students who require housing at UT. In the previous academic year, according to the international office, 6,404 international students enrolled from five continents. In the same year, according to U.S. News and World Report, only 19 percent of students stayed on campus, which is less than similar-sized universities such as Ohio State University and University of Florida. Given that international students make up 12.5 percent of UT’s population, on-campus housing can be scarce. In this light, it is imperative that the international office persistently try to satisfy these students housing needs themselves instead of referring students to third parties.
Because UT is clearly an international university with a global presence and prestige, housing should be simpler to organize. Through social media, I was able to source my housing and pay my deposit. Despite the worldly reach of UT’s students, I had to resort to social media to find my housing solution. Facebook better connected housing for me than the representatives at the international office.
Given the size of UT, it is clear that the 15 residence halls that currently accommodate 19 percent of the student population are not sufficient for a sustainable future. Although the off-campus market is growing at a competitive rate, more information and guidance from the international office would help to settle the nerves of incoming travelers as they settle into new surroundings and culture.
Housing is hard generally. As an international student, it is even worse. If UT wants to continue as a global university, this process should be streamlined and better communicated to arriving students.
Naqvi is a geography sophomore from London, England. He is a guest columnist.