As pandemic travel restrictions ease up globally, NYU’s Office of Global Programs has resumed planning for study abroad — decisions for spring term applications were released to students earlier this month. Given our forced confinement in quarantine and the previous cancellation of several terms of study abroad programming, the renewed opportunity to experience one of NYU’s global locations is particularly exciting. 

However, the intellectual and cultural appeal that study abroad offers remains hampered by NYU’s limited student housing options that reduce financial accessibility. Instead of enforcing harsh regulations preventing students from accessing independent off-campus accommodations, NYU should expand student pathways to off-campus housing.

NYU regulations require all students studying abroad to live in NYU-arranged housing. Given that homestays are paused due to COVID-related concerns, student dorms are the only option. NYU’s Housing Exemption Application justifies this by describing NYU housing as an “essential component of the study away experience, providing students with a safe and supportive living environment.”

Currently, there are only two narrow avenues for exemption. To stay with hosts, you may only live with a relative or close family friend who is over 25 and has lived in the city for at least a year. To live independently, you must have grown up in the city or studied there for at least one previous college semester and be proficient in the local language. All exemption applications must be substantiated by submitting personal descriptions and documentations, and your housing must be within an hour and a half of the academic center.

While NYU housing certainly offers advertised advantages like communal spaces, experiences and emergency resources, these strict blanket policies disregard students’ diverse financial needs.

At major sites such as London and Florence, NYU semester dorming costs can reach up to $11,147 and $10,540, respectively. In London, however, the average one-bedroom apartment costs $1,000 a month, or $3,000 a semester. Rent in Florence averages $810 a month, or $2,400 a semester. Off-campus housing options would save students thousands of dollars and open up global sites to students who cannot afford dorm rents.

Other differences in a student’s study abroad lifestyle — the reduced availability of employment, for example — may also make securing independent, lower-cost housing an even greater priority. All global sites list on-campus work opportunities as limited or unavailable. Off campus, students must secure any internships through NYU’s competitive application process, but many of these internships are also unpaid or require an intermediate level of foreign language proficiency. Thus, even though students’ financial aid packages transfer over to global locations, a greater amount of aid may be necessary.

Current scholarship initiatives, such as the Global Pathways Scholarship and Global Programs Administered Awards, are commendable steps in promoting greater financial support. However, given that awards cannot be guaranteed to all those in need, NYU must address one of the core factors inhibiting the financial accessibility of study abroad by expanding access to off-campus housing. 

Contact Michelle Han at [email protected]