Dormitory or apartment? This question is at the forefront of many students' minds when they start searching for accommodation in Czechia. Some, swayed by horror stories from experienced students, dismiss the idea of living in a dormitory outright. Although personal preferences play a pivotal role, I'll do my best to unravel some of the truths on both fronts to ensure that you will be equipped with the proper knowledge to make an informed decision.
A brief glimpse into dorm life
Residing in a dormitory can be a perfect option. Most dormitories have shared facilities like kitchens, laundry, study rooms, and restrooms. In Czechia, the dormitories are not always close to the campus. Those in the most optimal locations tend to fill up quickly. It also depends on whether you are more comfortable living in the heart of the city, with all its exuberance, or prefer more tranquil surroundings. I opted for a dormitory a bit farther away from my campus, as I needed a clear mental distinction between my study space and living quarters. Yes, I have to wake up earlier than most of my peers to reach classes on time, but I don't mind the travel. It gives me time to collect my thoughts before class or after a long day of brutal studying. Alternatively, you can always go for dormitories close to your faculty, but if that dormitory isn't allocated to you initially, ensure that you carry out the transfer as early as possible to secure a room before spaces run out!
Another factor that came into this decision of mine was that living in a dormitory is an experience. It provided me with the perfect opportunity to meet people from different parts of the world, making creating a diverse network of friends easy. There have been times when I would return from a clerkship to find that my roommate had prepared dinner for the both of us. There also have been times when I have come back to find a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and an empty fridge. It can go both ways, for sure. Pleasant roomies can make the whole ordeal much more enjoyable, but you can always ask the accommodation office for a change of rooms in case your roommate isn't the bundle of joy you were expecting.
Lastly, and most importantly, dormitories have the added advantage of being more budget-friendly. The internet, water, and electricity are usually free in the dormitory. Added to the fact that the monthly rent is much lower than you would be paying if you were staying in an apartment, it provides great financial flexibility, which can be particularly important in the academic journey.
The luxuries of living in an apartment
Luxury is one of the few words that come to mind when I look (rather enviously) at the lifestyle of my apartment-dwelling friends. Most people who opt for an apartment usually find one conveniently from their respective faculties. The most significant benefit is that you do not need to wake up at what feels like the crack of dawn if, God forbid, you have a class at 8 am. You also have more privacy and independence, as in most cases, you will have a room to yourself. Various websites are available for you to choose an apartment that suits you. To name a few, Forstudents.cz, Flatio.com, Bezrealitky.com, and Expats.cz are great options.
You can also check out Facebook or Instagram accounts created by students of your respective faculties dedicated to finding apartments. Having flatmates from the same faculty can prove to be really beneficial as they can guide you throughout the year and impart great advice, having gone through the same course themselves.
However, not all that glitter is gold, and there will still be challenges to face. Firstly, finding an apartment in the city centre can be challenging and pretty expensive, especially with the recent inflation and rising prices. Additionally, unlike dorms, which are furnished, you may have to invest in furniture and other supplies. You may also need to pay separately for utilities such as electricity, water and internet. All of this can prove to be a challenge for those on a tight budget.
Secondly, apartment living comes with responsibilities such as maintenance and dealing with repairs. This is in contrast to the dormitories, where any damage you haven't done can be fixed by just reporting the defect online. Not only is this convenient but also remarkably time-saving. Lastly, apartments may not provide the same social opportunities as dormitories, making it harder for students to build a sense of community. However, despite this, many students find that living in an apartment offers independence and a more private living space. Overcoming these difficulties often involves careful planning and budgeting, but it still tends to be the more sought-after option amongst international students in my faculty.
In summary, opting for either a dormitory or an apartment has advantages and disadvantages. I strongly recommend thoroughly analysing key factors associated with each living arrangement, namely affordability, accessibility, and privacy, to discern the option most tailored to your needs. I hope this article has provided valuable insights into the nuances of living in Czechia as an international student!