- Five international students told Soapbox that they have lost up to $1,300 getting off-campus accommodation after being rejected from hall
- They scrambled to get off-campus accommodation, only to find out that their appeals were successful
- The slow appeals process not only cost them money, it also affected their mental health
Text by Sudhiksha Krishna Kumar
Photos by Eugene Goh
Indian national Sanath Surawar started searching for off-campus housing on June 1 after receiving an email telling him that his Hall application was unsuccessful, and that he had been placed on the waitlist.
The final-year Computer Science student turned to Coliwoo, a co-living rental provider in Boon Lay, for possible accommodation, in case his appeal to keep a spot on campus fails.
The residency, which is popular among students and professionals, is around 40 minutes from campus by public transport, and offers kitchens, bathrooms, and utilities. Rental rates start at $1,300 for single rooms and $950 per person for double rooms.
Since NTU’s email advised unsuccessful applicants to look for off-campus housing while waiting for appeal results, Sanath decided to rent a shared room at Coliwoo Boon Lay, which provides shared residential units for students and professionals, with another international student.
“Having to find accommodation outside of NTU made me feel very unwelcome,” said Sanath.
The pair had to pay $3,300 for a security deposit, renter’s fees and the first month’s rent. They were slated to move in on July 15.
But two days before he was set to move in, Sanath received an email that he could continue staying in his hostel room until the end of the month. On July 22, Sanath was notified via email of his successful appeal for the semester’s Hall stay.
He now finds himself paying rent for both his Hall room and the Coliwoo accommodation.
“I haven’t even set foot into the Coliwoo room and I have to pay rent for a year. I will only receive the $1,650 I paid for the security deposit after a year and I have already lost $900 in paying for a month’s rent,” said Sanath.
Sanath is one of five international students interviewed to said that they had to fork out great sums for their accommodation expenses for off-campus rental on top of their monthly Hall fees, after the university’s slow appeal process left them scrambling to secure alternative places to stay.
They say that being stuck between both arrangements has cost them thousands of dollars and given rise to mental health issues.
NTU’s policy for years has been to prioritise Hall stay for first- and second-year students, according to The Straits Times.
Hostel rooms in NTU cost between $265 to $635 per month, ranging from double rooms with no air conditioning to single rooms with air conditioning and an attached bathroom.
In response to Soapbox’s queries, an NTU spokesman said Hall applicants were notified of the allocation results on June 1 via email, which he said would give them time to make the necessary arrangement for off-campus accommodation.
He added that applications for hostels outstripped supply by 20 per cent this year. The email did not state how many Hall spaces were available this year.
Unsuccessful applicants who appealed were allowed to stay in their Hall rooms until the end of July, when they would receive the results of their appeals.
The spokesman added: “Appeals for hostel accommodation would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and only students with the most pressing needs will be prioritised for any available Hall placements.”
He said that applicants on the waitlist were also informed that the number of successful applicants who decline their place in Hall is expected to be “very small” and that the applicants were advised to make off-campus arrangements if they have not done so.
Another second-year international student from the College of Engineering, who declined to be named, signed a six-month lease with Coliwoo and paid a $3,600 security deposit that was split between him and a friend. He also paid $900 for July’s rent.
Eventually, his appeal to continue staying in NTU was approved on July 22.
The 21-year-old Indian national added that he is trying to cover his losses by reaching out to other students who might need an accommodation to transfer his rental lease agreement.
Until then, he will have to continue paying a monthly rent of $900 at Coliwoo and $405 at NTU – triple his usual accommodation expenses, he said.
Coliwoo has declined to comment on the queries Soapbox sent via email regarding rental lease agreements for international students.
Some international students also signed one-year leases with housing flats or condominiums near the campus in June when the university notified them that they might not receive accommodation on campus.
Xinyang Yu, a final-year student from the School of Computer Science and Engineering who rented a room at an housing board flat in Jurong West, said the rush to find off-campus housing meant he had to settle for higher prices.
The Chinese national said: “Having to find accommodation outside within 45 days from June 1 to July 15 had also made the market unreasonable – landlords and agents got picky and cocky, prices skyrocketed, and houses were taken often within two hours without any viewing.”
Monetary loss was not the only problem faced by international students as the uncertainty of being without a place to stay has also put them under stress, they say.
A third-year Business student, who declined to be named, said that she made more visits to the University Counselling Centre after she was notified that she might not be able to continue her stay on campus.
The Indian national added that the need to find housing in June and July – the period when there are several incoming international students – contributed to her stress and anxiety.
Arukshita Anand, a final-year student from the School of Art, Design and Media, found accommodation at a condominium in Lakeside after her initial appeal was rejected on July 1.
“You’re practically homeless as an international student, so I was under a lot of stress. There was no time to do research and find cheaper external accommodation,” she said.
To finance her rent of $1,300 per month – more than double the cost of her hostel room’s rent for a semester – the Indian national is currently working part time at a media company and searching for graphic design-related jobs under the university’s Work Study Scheme, an approved training programme for students.
She said: “What we had budgeted back home for my education was in terms of Hall rent, not in terms of an external condo’s rent. I would not want to burden my family with so much extra expenditure.”