I'm an English teaching assistant who will soon leave for France with no housing pre-arranged for me and no help from the schools employing me or from any other government organizations, despite numerous polite requests for assistance. How can I find low-cost and secure housing in Strasbourg as soon as possible? Are there reputable agencies to help individuals in my situation?
In two weeks, I (a 22-year-old American female) will be flying from the U.S. to Strasbourg to begin a 7-month-long, government-sponsored English teaching assistantship at two local secondary schools. Despite numerous efforts to request practical help in finding a housing arrangement from both of my schools, from my contact teachers, from the school district board members in charge of language assistants, and from CROUS/CNOUS (the public organization that helps international students with housing, among other things), I have not found a place to stay. Every official whom I ask for help just sends me to another person in different organization or level of administration, and in the end, nobody has expressed any sympathy for my situation as it's nobody's ultimate responsibility to help me. As a language assistant and not technically a student, I also have no access to websites like Lokaviz.fr
where international students could otherwise research low-cost housing options online.
While this is extremely frustrating and discouraging, I do understand that finding housing was always going to be, at the end of the day, my own responsibility, as no housing assistance was promised in my work contract. However, as a foreign, low-income, part-time, temporary worker, I face a number of obstacles to arranging for housing all by myself in France, including the fact that I don't yet have a French bank account, my net French income will be barely 800€, I don't have French guarantors, and I obviously can't tour apartments before I arrive. (I do have a few thousand dollars in savings and a letter of financial support from my father, but these are all coming from the U.S., so I'm not sure how convincing they would be to French landlords.) Furthermore, while I do have a C1/C2 level of French fluency, I don't trust my ability to quickly read, understand, and evaluate the legalese on documents I may have to sign, and I fear that I will appear vulnerable and easy for unsavory landlords to manipulate (I tend to be mistaken for a pre-teenager, anyway).
Firstly, I need a safe and secure place to live for the first week or two in Strasbourg while I attempt to set up a French bank account and begin apartment hunting in person. Wherever I stay initially will serve as my base of operations, so to speak. Unfortunately, hostels are not an option for me here (not secure enough when I'm carrying a suitcase with all my valuables and clothing for 7 months of living, and I'm a light sleeper who can't easily share a bedroom with others). Hotels near the center of the city, or near the neighborhood where I'll be working, are also extremely expensive, especially on such short notice. I know I may have to stay in a hotel for the first couple of nights, but paying $100+/night indefinitely for however long it takes me to find a satisfactory apartment with a willing landlord, might become prohibitively expensive.
Therefore, as quickly as possible, I want to actually find the apartment that will be my long-term living arrangement for the duration of my contract (October through April). I have a certain price range in mind (200€ to 500€ per month), a certain set of preferred neighborhoods (for proximity to my schools), and a basic desire for a safe, clean, and quiet environment in whatever studio apartment I can find. Again, I'm aware of resources like leboncoin.fr
, but the majority of relevant listings there strike me as very dodgy, and I think it might take a very long time to weed through the bad places before finding ones that are acceptable (and that will take me!). And even then, I'm back to the problem of security deposits, renter's insurance, French residence tax, and other issues that I am not fully confident navigating in French all on my own.
What my question comes down to:
Can you recommend any particular agency or organization that could help someone in my situation find and secure an appropriate housing arrangement in Strasbourg as quickly as possible (to minimize the time I must spend in expensive hotels)? I am willing to pay for such a service, if it can be provided by a reputable organization or individual. I am desperate for some reasonably priced agency or organization that I can trust to help me with this housing problem, since I seem to have exhausted all the official channels of French support to international students/young workers. If you have any other ideas for what a person in my situation might do to secure a safe and stable housing arrangement as quickly as possible, I'm open to almost anything at this point. Bonus: if you have any pointers for short-term lodging that is more secure/private than Couchsurfing but less expensive than regular hotels.