Studying abroad is one of the most valuable parts of college. There aren’t many opportunities postgraduation to take six months off and travel to a different country with your friends to learn about a new culture. Additionally, the University provides resources that make the stay and cost of being in a foreign country much less intimidating.
However, there is a confounding factor that affects many students who want to study abroad — their leases.
Many study abroad programs offered by UT are semester-long while off-campus leases are often yearlong contracts, meaning that students have to find someone to sublet their room or apartment for half of the academic year. To make this barrier to studying abroad less intimidating, the Education Abroad Office should create a forum for students studying abroad to post and viewavailable apartments.
West Campus is home to many and frequently visited by virtually all UT students. After dorm housing freshmen year, many students move into their own apartment. However, apartments come with leases, which can complicate the process of taking a semester abroad.
West Campus realtor Nikolas Tineo describes the leases for the properties he works with.
“I would say that a 12-month lease is the most common,” Tineo said. “Finding a 6-month lease is more challenging, definitely possible but there are fewer options.”
The commitment to pay rent for this amount of time can be very stressful, especially with the rising rent prices in West Campus. The most common way students deal with this is by subletting their room during the time that they are gone, but students face major difficulties in finding someone to take their place.
Sociology and government sophomore Elena Edwards is struggling to find a sublessee in preparation for studying abroad in the spring of 2021.
“I’ve been asking around and no one has really said they’re studying abroad next fall,” Edwards said. “It’s very difficult to find someone who’s studying abroad, much less someone who’s willing to do a sublease trade off. It’s like shouting into the void.”
To ease the study abroad housing stress, Education Abroad Office should create a web forum for students planning on studying abroad.
Heather Thompson, director of Education Abroad maintains that Texas Global supports students in every step of their study abroad journey, and that the resources students need are already available to them.
“We suggest students who are trying to resolve housing issues take advantage of a number of resources that already exist and are widely available to students,” Thomspon wrote in an email. “Including services offered by the (Office of the) Dean of Students and large Facebook groups with the expressed purpose of advertising housing opportunities.”
However, resources offered through the Office of the Dean of Students are not tailored to help students with studying abroad. According to Sara Kennedy, director of strategic and executive communications at the Office of the Dean of Students, their services are intended to help students review their leases before signing to make sure there aren’t any unwanted obligations in the agreement. Additionally, Facebook groups are disorganized and don’t connect all students who plan on studying abroad.
In order to study abroad, students must apply through the Education Abroad portal, MyAbroad. In this application, Education Abroad should give students the option to post their available apartment on this web forum. That way, every student who is studying abroad and either needs a lease or needs to sublease has the opportunity to do so. This would give students more options, allow them to be more connected with peers looking for a lease and make them feel more secure.
“Since it would be a group of people who are all doing the same thing and are in the same situation, I think that would make it a lot easier,” Edwards said.
Study abroad is an opportunity that students should feel comfortable taking advantage of, because it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. UT should create this website, as it is an inappreciable price to pay for the intercultural development of thousands of students.
Lazaroski is an english sophomore from Dallas.