First we want to introduce ourselves. We are Ana and Johanna, exchange students from Germany studying at Chapman this fall semester. While preparing for our semester abroad we were faced with many challenges and came up with the idea of making a blog about our experiences to help and make it easier for other exchange students.
We knew dorm housing wasn’t an option for us from the beginning. Since Chapman only gave us information on living in the dorms and didn’t provide us with enough information on off-campus housing, we decided to book a motel for our first week in Orange. After arriving in Orange the first thing we had to take care of was finding a place to live.
It is important to know that the public transportation system around here isn’t very good. There are only few bus stops and the buses schedule is very irregular. Therefore it was necessary to have a car to get around so we rented a car for the first week. The best and cheapest place to rent a car for students, especially those under 25 years old, would be ALAMO car rentals (www.alamo.com). They provide you with all the insurance coverage you need to drive in California. Furthermore, they accept international driver’s licenses and offer you free mileage, which can be very useful if you’re planning on travelling.
Driving in a foreign country, especially in the United States, can be very confusing so having a GPS is very useful. You can rent one of these from ALAMO but it is way cheaper to buy one at Sears, Walmart or Best Buy if you’re considering buying a car. Renting a GPS will cost you $69 per week and buying one costs between $80 and $100.
Although we tried to prepare back home our first week was very stressful. Contrary to our research and expectations housing in Orange was more expensive than we thought. After spending a few days on the phone in search for apartments and looking at several places we gave up on the idea of having our own place to stay. Not only was it expensive to rent but buying furniture and paying for utilities and maintenance wasn’t in our budget. Finally we decided to seek help at the Center for Global Education on campus and were matched with two host families who were renting rooms to exchange students. We decided to live with a woman who lives alone with her dog because she had larger bedrooms and a separate bathroom for ourselves.
The first thing you should do as soon as you know you will be studying at Chapman, is to check out the resources Chapman offers like their facebook pages (Chapman Off Campus Housing & Chapman University’s Incoming Internationals) and their off- campus housing website (http://www.chapman.edu/studentLife/resLife/offcampus.asp). Unfortunately this information wasn’t given to us beforehand, but it can be very helpful.