Living On Campus
You might want to live on campus for your first academic year or term, particularly if you are an undergraduate. On-campus housing often is less expensive and more convenient than off-campus options. On campus, you will have easy access to the library, computer equipment, the student center, sports and recreation facilities, cafeterias, and your classes. More important, you will have the greatest possible opportunity to interact with other students.
The typical U.S. residence hall or "dormitory" offers more than just a place to sleep. Emphasis is placed upon supporting students' academic objectives through academic and social activities. For example, the residence halls and student housing at UM-St. Louis (Normandie, Bellerive, Seton, Le Gras, Villa, Villa North, the Meadows and Mansion Hills) offer quiet areas for study, recreation areas and rooms for social activities.
Living Off Campus
Many international students, particularly graduate students, prefer the independence of living off campus. In some cases, students find off-campus living to be more affordable, because they can share costs. You should exercise care, however, in selecting the right apartment or house.
The Office of International Student and Scholar Services may be able to offer assistance in locating off-campus housing. The Office of Student Activities maintains a list of available apartments and may provide students with names of others who are seeking roommates. Other students from your country may be a good source of information about housing near campus. Local newspapers are also good sources for information: St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Riverfront Times. Both are available in the Library.
When choosing an apartment you should consider its cost, proximity to campus, and safety. Is the property well lighted? Are there adequate locks on the windows and doors? A "lease" is a binding legal contract between you and the property owner, or landlord. When you sign a lease, you are obligated to pay the landlord monthly rent for the duration of the lease. Most leases are for 9 or 12 months, and it is usually very difficult to break or alter a lease. Therefore, before you sign you should be reasonably sure that you can live with your decision for the duration of your lease. With permission from your landlord, you may be allowed to find a tenant to take your place for the remainder of your contract. If you "sublease" your apartment to other tenants, however, you probably will remain responsible for their actions.
Never sign a lease unless you are completely satisfied with the apartment and surrounding property. Sign only when you understand all the terms of the lease.
When you sign a lease, you will typically be required to pay a "security deposit," usually equivalent to at least one month's rent, as well as the rent for the first month. The security deposit will be returned to you when you move out, provided you leave the apartment in good condition. In addition, you may incur expenses that you would not incur on campus. For example, most apartments come equipped with basic appliances such as stove and refrigerator, but you may need to purchase or rent a bed and other furniture, as well as kitchen equipment, a telephone, and other items.
Also, you probably will be responsible for paying the cost of your telephone service and "utilities": water, electricity, and gas. The utility companies may require you to pay a deposit before service is activated. These deposits will be refunded to you or credited to your account when you terminate your service, provided you have paid all of your bills.
Whether you plan to live on or off campus, consider protecting your belongings with renter's insurance. With renter's insurance, you will be compensated by the insurance company if your personal belongings are stolen or destroyed.
Very few international students will purchase a home or condominium apartment. If you plan to remain in the United States for more than five years, however, purchasing property may be a wise investment. Consult a real estate agent if you believe this may be an option for you. The agent will explain the many details involved in buying property, which is a complicated matter, even for Americans; it should be undertaken with great care.