Thursday, 22 January 2015

On the hunt

I'm back in Uppsala! I've had the first couple of lectures of the new term and it looks like it's going to be a good one. For this period I've got Mathematical Methods of Physics II and Quantum Field Theory. This selection is interesting because it shows how different the various courses can be at UU. While both courses are 10 ECTs, QFT has about 36 lectures, 5 or 6 homework assignments, and no exam, whereas FMMII (the abbreviation for mathematical methods) has only 15 lectures and an exam, with homework assignments optional. This has no bearing on how easy or hard either course will be, it's just an illustration of the variety of course styles that are available here.

Just imagine me on my bike, with the back end swinging
wildly, but definitely looking just as awesome.
There is some serious snow here now (not too deep, but it's not going anywhere any time soon) with the roads covered in hard packed snow and ice. I was thinking about getting a bus pass, but after a few days back I'm getting used to biking in it, so I might just save myself the money. I bought my bike used and the tires have basically no grip, so I can't brake hard, but I can do my own cycling version of Tokyo Drift, which makes me feel like one of the cool kids. Also, since I bike through a park on my way to Ångström, the snow makes the commute pretty beautiful.

So around the time that I wrote my last post, I got the news that I have to move out of my current room by the end of February. This came as a bit of a shock as I had previously been told that the room would be available to me until the summer, if not this time next year. However, it seems that my roommates/landlords have decided to move, so I need to as well.

I'm not going to sugar coat this, personally I find the housing situation to be most frustrating part about living in Uppsala. Uppsala University doesn't have housing, so all housing arrangements must be made with companies or "second hand" contracts, i.e. subletting. If you are an exchange or fee-paying (from outside of the EU) master student, I believe the University Housing Office takes care of finding a place for you. However, since I have an EU passport (and so don't pay fees) I'm on my own.

From here on out I'm talking about my own experience, so your mileage may vary. Basically, my strategy has been to write a generic email about myself and then "pray and spray": fire it off in response to every listing that looks even remotely livable, sometimes tweaking it a bit to indicate that I actually read the description. I've found the response rate is around 10% at this time of year (wide error bars here), but decreases quite a bit in the summer when the influx of new students arrives. On the flip side, the number of places available is much higher in the summer, so you can send way more emails.

I have had the most luck on sites where users can list their own apartments. Blocket is like Swedish Craigslist, and their housing page is constantly updated with new ads. Another option is Studentboet, which caters specifically to students in Uppsala. Both sites have a web form for contacting the advertiser. I basically went to both of these sites every day (sometimes more than once per day) and responded to all the new ads. I've found that Studentboet has less selection, but is also less competitive so you're more likely to get a response.

These kinds of sites are where you'll mostly find second hand contracts. Subletting is nice because you're dealing with people instead of a company, and you're more much more likely to get a response. The sites also don't use a queuing system, so you aren't competing with people who have accumulated 967 queue days since they applied in high school. However, second hand contracts don't always have a fixed ending date, which means you could think you have something semi-permanent and then suddenly find yourself house hunting again after a few months, which is what happened to me.

The alternative is the housing companies or nations, both of which typically offer first hand contracts. These are often more secure, but are much harder to get. I'll list a few of them on the Helpful Links page, but I'm sure there are others out there that I don't know about. If you are planning on using these (might as well, they're free) then sign up ASAP so that you get more queue days under your belt. Good luck!

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