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From Newcastle to Barcelona: My Journey to Finding the Perfect Apartment

Meet Emma, from Newcastle! A 2023-24 Meddeas Language Assistant in Barcelona. After her university graduation, she was in search of a change, a new direction in her career path. This pushed her decision to become an English Language Assistant.

Like anyone in the middle of moving to a foreign country, the first thing that came to her mind was “How am I going to find an apartment?”.

Emma has decided to share with us the ups and downs of this entire experience, alongside her very own tips and tricks. Take notes for your own upcoming apartment search!

Once I took the plunge and signed up to be an English language assistant, I knew that my life was about to veer off into an unknown direction that would hopefully, be for the better. I knew that I was outgoing, desperate for change, and that I was gasping for excitement in my life, so this initial decision to move felt like the natural choice. However, I still remember the panic and the fear I felt as I sat at home in Newcastle, freshly graduated from university, and fully aware that the next few weeks of apartment hunting would be a non-stop trial of patience and resilience.

The Highs and Lows of the Apartment Search

It was 9 pm on a humid September evening, and I found myself relentlessly scrolling through Idealista, tucked away in the bed of my darkened, tiny Airbnb room. At that moment, I felt as if I was never going to find a place and had begun to catastrophise that my optimistic dreams of a sunny Spanish balcony were far out of my reach.

Packing up your life into a 32kg suitcase, and jetting off abroad to live in a new city is a daunting task already, and requires a level of faith in the process that most people already don’t possess, but to combine this with the panic of apartment searching in a foreign language? There will be moments when the whole thing feels impossible and too much to bear. The good news is that the panic will cede, and without even noticing that it’s happening, you will find yourself leading a whole new life in a different corner of the world in no time.

That is not to say there aren’t things you can do to mitigate the initial shock of staring at all your possessions tucked into your luggage, thinking ‘Oh god what have I done?’. There will always be pieces of advice or titbits of knowledge that will ease the whole process and so for this blogpost, I will be imparting the knowledge of what I learned and experienced while undergoing the dreaded search for accommodation when I first moved.

Before Making the Move:

Book temporary accommodation for your arrival.

Everyone says this, but it is for good reason. Spending some time in a temporary space allows you the freedom to think about your accommodation criteria and gives you the opportunity to “feel out” the city you’re going to call home.

Research. Research. Research.

At this stage, the most crucial thing you can do to save yourself some time and money when you get there is to research the housing market of your city. When I moved to Barcelona, I knew that accommodation, and the lack of affordable housing, was going to be a potential issue. As a result, I ensured that when I was sourcing information on types of housing, contracts, average rent, etc., I was looking at the information provided by locals living in the city. They know the city best, and their expectations allowed me to be realistic about my own. Consequently, when I arrived in the city, I felt as though I had a clear idea of what I could expect on the budget I had available to me, and I was able to spot when letting agents were trying to take advantage of an open purse and a new resident.

Upon Your Arrival

Be prepared for your accommodation criteria to change.

I know that we all arrive with dreams of what our new life will look like and a large part of this is fantasies of bedrooms and apartments that look like they were borrowed from the set of an Almodóvar film. However, I found that after multiple viewings, I was revising my own criteria. Within a week, I had changed my mind about the areas I wanted to live in, the kind of roommates I wanted, and was prioritising things I had previously been willing to forego.

Look at viewings as opportunities.

Visiting a plethora of places is good for revising your own wants and needs, and in the long term, being prepared and unafraid of diverging from your initial criteria is even better for your accommodation search. Don’t be afraid to hold off on making a final decision if you feel like you are compromising too much. This also gives you the opportunity to go see the apartment in person, helping you avoid getting scammed. Always view the apartment before paying anything.

Personalised communication.

During viewing number 7, the lady who owned the apartment confessed that she refused to respond to any viewing requests that hadn’t taken the time to craft a personal message that detailed a bit about their person, their lifestyle, and their experience sharing an apartment. She argued that if they couldn’t spare a couple of extra moments to personalise a message, she couldn’t spare the time for a viewing.

Although this may seem harsh, it helps to bear in mind that reaching out about visits is the first opportunity you have to communicate with someone who could potentially be your roommate for the next year. Being friendly, honest, and open in that first message goes a long way in establishing an amicable relationship. A good impression makes you more memorable to a person who could be providing you with accommodation.

Call the listed number when possible.

Equally, if a listing leaves a contact phone number, calling instead of messaging is a useful way to ensure that you stand out from the multitude of messages they may be receiving as it is direct, conveys your enthusiasm, and demonstrates your capacity to communicate. Often, it is the easiest way to arrange a viewing as soon as possible.

And Finally…

You just have to keep a level head and continue going through the motions. Twenty-four hours after my late-night freak out in the Airbnb, I had organised a viewing and signed the contract for the lovely home in which I reside now. As I’m writing, it is a warm day and I’m having a coffee on the terrace before heading off to work. The dreams of a sunny Spanish balcony were not so far off after all, I just had to be patient that it would all work out – and it will for you too.

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