As second-year-me prepared to embark on a Year Abroad, I felt smug about not having to deal with the hassle of finding a student house in Durham. As my friends frantically searched to secure a home in Durham, I sat back and set to work on composing cover letters in German. Fast forward to this summer, as I am about to head off to Berlin for an internship. I started searching for a room a month before my internship began. I had been told that people with spare rooms tend to start searching for new flatmates with little notice; a nice change from the typical year-in-advance search in Durham, or so I thought. Only then did I realise it was not going to be an easy ride. Perhaps my friends back in Durham would have the last laugh.
Finding a room in Durham would have been a walk in the park. I suddenly had to think about who I would live with, what my budget was and where I wanted to live. Prior to my search, people had recommended which websites to use and told me to use Facebook groups. This initially sounded very dodgy- who would trust a couple of badly-taken iPhone photos and a short bio as a genuine advert for a room? Many adverts were clearly fraudulent, so this was another obstacle for me to overcome. Being scammed was something I had never even considered in Durham.
Two weeks went by and many short paragraphs in German had been sent via Facebook to strangers living in Berlin. This was another thing I was confronted with: living with people I had never met before. I tried hard to make myself sound like an appealing flatmate, but to no avail. Each time an advert was posted on Facebook or WG-Gesucht, it would immediately get responses. I got a few replies and I even managed to meet a couple of people via FaceTime, but things were not going my way. It seemed many people wanted to meet me in person if we were going to be living together (I don’t blame them). Anxiety started to set in, but eight days before my departure, a Facebook post appeared for a beautiful, furnished room just three underground stops away from my work, for only 380€ per month. This fit with my exact dates in Berlin. I knew this was the room for me. I quickly sent my carefully-constructed introduction and set up a video call with my soon- to-be flatmate. Success!
The countless messages were worth it, as everything fell into place. Perseverance was key and in the end I had not one, but three room offers! I could afford to be picky. It was strange sorting my accommodation via Facebook, but part of the fun of the Year Abroad is doing unusual things that you may have never done before.
Finally, here are my three top tips to anyone looking for a room for their year abroad: