If you’re planning to study in the United States as an international student, then you already know that figuring out what to bring and how to bring it can be an incredibly long and difficult process. While there are many items, such as your clothes, toiletries, and other personal belongings, that you’ll most likely end up bringing from home, you’ll likely get all of your furniture in the US. Whether you make arrangements online prior to your arrival or you wait until you arrive and go looking for furniture yourself, there are some things you should probably know before you make these decisions, such as when to rent furniture instead of buying, the different ways you’ll have to furnish a residence hall as opposed to an apartment, and more.
Residence Hall Furniture Basics
The process of moving into a college residence hall is usually much simpler than the process of moving into a new apartment or house. Most college residence halls come with some furniture, which typically includes a bed, a desk, a chair, and a dresser, so you won’t have to worry about furnishing your residence hall room with the essentials before you move in; they are either included in the housing fees, or you are given “furniture package” options from your school. However, most pre-furnished residence halls and furniture packages only include the bare minimum, and some students need a bit more to be able to live comfortably and contain all of their belongings. A few items that students typically purchase or rent when living in residence halls include:
- Mini Fridge
- Storage Drawers
- Futon or Couch
- Area Rug
- Lounge Chair
For the most part, schools don’t allow students to swap their residence hall furniture for other furniture, but they usually let students furnish their rooms however they please, as long as the furniture supplied by the school stays in the room. There are “international student furniture essentials” packages out there, and some of these may be worth looking into, but it’s important to compare these packages with the option of finding furniture to either buy or rent on your own. If you do end up looking for furniture yourself, you’ll find that the options are basically endless. In fact, most of the time, one of the most difficult things about choosing furniture is that there are too many options, and you’ll be afraid that once you finally decide to buy something, you’ll find something better and cheaper right away. Used furniture is usually much cheaper than new furniture, and if you go shopping for used furniture at garage sales, consignment stores, flea markets, Craigslist, or anywhere else, you’ll find that you can pick and choose from any number of styles. If you’re considering buying used furniture, you’ll likely have to find these items by just browsing. While Craigslist does typically have something for everybody, you’re more likely to find cheap, small items by browsing these stores in person. However, you may not be so lucky, and there are ways to easily find cheap, small, and easily transportable items on the internet. Amazon has a huge variety of small, modern, handy items that are easy to assemble, similar to things you might find at a store like IKEA, plus it can be delivered right to your residence hall or apartment. For typical furniture that you might find in a house that has been furnished for years, used consignment stores are the way to go, but for small, convenient items that might be a better fit for a residence hall room, browsing Amazon’s furniture section is probably ideal.
Renting vs. Buying
When trying to decide if you should purchase or rent furniture there are a few things you should consider. Comparing the two options against your personal situation will provide you with the best answer. Consider the following:
- Items Needed: First, take a look at what you need. If living in an apartment then you likely need a lot! If you will live in the residence halls you likely only need a few small items.
- Time Frame: Second, consider how long you will need the furniture. Do you plan on staying at your university to complete your degree over the course of a few years, or do you plan on only spending one year there?
- Summer Semester: The third item to consider is even if you plan on spending all four years at your university, do you plan on returning home during the summer semester? If so, you will need to either store your furniture or sell it. Additionally, the option to stay in your residence hall over the summer semester might not be available, make sure you confirm prior to purchasing any furniture so you can plan accordingly.
- Cost: Based on the above three items it should allow you to evaluate if it’s more cost-effective and convenient to purchase furniture during your time as a student or to rent.
If you’re looking for larger items that you may not be able to find easily on Amazon, or items that you like, but don’t want to commit to because you won’t be able to take them home with you, renting furniture is often an easier option than buying. If you rent furniture, you aren’t making a long-term commitment; if you need to return home for any reason, you won’t have to bring any furniture with you. Many student furniture companies will even pick the furniture up for you after your lease, if not for free, for a small fee. Additionally, rental furniture is typically stylish and newer.
However, it’s not always the cheaper options. It’s important to compare the cost of buying a piece of furniture (factoring in resale price), to renting for the number of years you will need to rent. After comparing these items you should have a better idea if it’s better to rent or purchase furniture during your time as an international student.