On-campus housing through UW-Madison’s Division of University Housing might be an option for incoming exchange students. On-campus housing is in demand and cannot be guaranteed. Students should be prepared to live off-campus given the limited availability of University Housing accommodations.
UW Residence Hall Housing
The university residence halls are a short walk or short ride on the campus circular bus route (Route 80) to class. The residence halls have single, double, triple, or quad occupancy rooms without attached kitchens and with shared, communal bathrooms. Students are able to indicate preferences for their assignment, however, it is possible to be placed in any building or room type on campus. Housing assignments are not first-come, first-serve, but instead are based on a lottery system. University housing at UW-Madison might be different from what you are used to back home. We recommend that exchange students be open to different experiences since it is not possible to cancel a signed contract because of the final room assignment.
Learn more about the on-campus housing options at University Housing’s Residence Halls page. This page includes details about each hall, as well as charts for you to easily compare room types, building features, and services around the neighborhood. You can find out more information about the items provided in each room (and even virtual tours of rooms!) on their Room Furnishings page. If you plan to study at UW-Madison for the fall semester only, you may break an academic year housing contract, but will not receive your deposit back. Spring University Housing contracts are a single semester only.
Students on exchange for the calendar year (January-December) should note that they will move out of UW-Madison housing in May and move back in at the end of August. UW residence halls are not open for exchange students over the summer.
Any other housing situation is “off-campus”. There are many private apartments, houses, and rented rooms that are close to campus. Be careful when arranging housing off-campus. Be sure to have a lease (rental agreement), and read it carefully! Verbal agreements on rentals are not normal in the United States. If you plan to study at UW-Madison for a semester but choose a year-long lease, you will generally be responsible for the remaining months’ rent unless another renter (subletter) can be found. Finding a subletter is often the responsibility of the original renter.
If you plan to live in off-campus housing, it is up to you to find and arrange appropriate accommodations. Off-campus housing is owned and operated by private individuals or companies and therefore, our office in unable to assist you with any arrangements. Most off-campus housing opportunities require a yearlong lease. UW-Madison’s Campus Area Housing page has information and tips about renting in the Madison area, as well as rental listings for housing that is currently available. Consider looking for apartments listed as “furnished” or “semi-furnished”. This will mean that basic furniture will be included as part of your rental.
Another off-campus housing option is a cooperative – “co-op”. Madison has a number of housing co-ops. Each has a different structure, set of rules, and personality. Residents are usually required to participate in a rotation to take care of chores like cooking, cleaning, etc. Learn more on the Madison Community Cooperative website.
We caution you about sending money in advance (earnest money or deposits) if it is at all possible that your rental offer is some type of scam. Campus Area Housing provides more information about the normal rental process in the United States as well as some information on scams on their Resources page.
Food & Dining
All University Housing residence hall students have access to residence hall dining services. Food service is paid for through a debit-style account on your Wiscard. Students are required to purchase a meal plan, but all meals are priced la carte. Many halls also have a common kitchen for cooking occasional meals on your own or with friends.
The UW-Madison student union (the Wisconsin Union) has a number of cafes and restaurants available on campus. Any student is welcome to purchase meals at these locations.
The UW-Madison campus is in the center of the city of Madison, and there are a variety of restaurants available nearby, as well as grocery stores to purchase food for cooking. Did you know that Madison has one of the highest per capita concentrations of restaurants in the United States? Any local would love to share their favorite recommendations with you.
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What is a Learning Community?
Some residence halls host learning communities. A learning community can have additional programming, classes taught right in the residence hall, or a specialized focus. UW-Madison is a big place, and living in a learning community can help you have a smaller, more personalized experience.
Is any short-term housing available?
For the fall semester, it’s usually possible to move into the residence halls early for an additional fee. Consult with University Housing prior to arrival.
Madison Friends of International Students (MFIS) can sometimes arrange homestays for incoming exchange students for 2-3 nights upon arrival.
There are several on-campus options for short-term accommodations, and a huge number of hotels located throughout the city.
Together, your online and on-site orientation will set you up for success at UW-Madison. We recommend that you watch our online orientation video modules a few weeks prior to your arrival on campus.