For the first time since Undergraduate Career Services began sponsoring international internships, participating students will have the option to arrange their own housing this summer.

In prior years, any student who accepted a UCS-sponsored internship overseas was required to live in housing that the office had procured for interns in the area. University administrators interviewed said the office decided to eliminate the housing requirement this year primarily in response to student criticism that the existing policy was too inflexible. UCS employees added that changing this policy also enabled the office to expand its international offerings for this summer to countries where it may have been too difficult for the University to guarantee housing.

“Even if some students had family in the area, according to the old policy, they still had to live in and pay for Yale housing,” UCS Director Jeanine Dames said. “This shift is intended to empower students who, for whatever reason, think they can find better housing through other avenues.”

Kenneth Koopmans, Director of Employment Programs and Deputy Director of UCS, said the new policy has helped the office add internship opportunities in nine new countries — Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Ghana, India, Japan, Jordan, South Africa and South Korea.

In the nine new countries, Koopmans said UCS will not offer any housing for students this summer, because it was difficult for UCS to find residential spaces that fit all of the office’s criteria and were large enough to accommodate all the interns.

“I think most students would prefer having internship opportunities in these countries even if it meant having to find housing on their own as opposed to not having these opportunities at all,” he said.

But even in international locations where UCS does not provide optional housing, Dames said the office will work extensively with local alumni and employers to help students find housing in safe and central locations with easily accessible public transportation.

Brian Whalen, president and CEO of Forum on Education Abroad, a non-profit that advises students and universities on study abroad programs, said the University’s international-internship program is a leader in the field because of the number of international opportunities it offers and the housing and support UCS provides to students throughout the internship process.

All 11 students interviewed — who had either pursued international internships under UCS’s sponsorship last summer or will do so this summer — said they appreciate the policy shift.

“I’m all in favor of giving Yale students more flexibility and choice,” said Eric Stern ’15, who interned in London last summer. Still, Stern added that the change would not have impacted his choice to live in UCS-sponsored housing last summer because he did not know anything about London and wanted to live near other Yale students.

Sophia Clementi ’14, who has interned in Athens, echoed Stern. She added that she often would go out with the Yale friends she made through UCS-housing and that she would have been apprehensive about negotiating a short-term lease in a country where she did not speak the language.

Still, all students interviewed said UCS housing was extremely expensive.

Tristan Sechrest ’15, who interned in London last summer, said many of his friends did not want to live in UCS housing last summer because they could find substantially cheaper apartments elsewhere in the city.

Maria Kourneli ’14 said UCS’s policy until now was illogical and bureaucratic. Although she is from Athens and is on full-financial aid, Kourneli said she was forced to live in and pay for UCS-housing last summer rather than live in her own home. She added that despite frequent trips to the office last spring to request an exemption from the housing requirement, she was continually rebuffed because the office was stringent in enforcing this rule.

UCS-housing costs significantly more than independent housing, Kourneli said, adding that although it cost $3,000 a month for Yale students to live in UCS-housing in Athens, other apartments in the same building cost only 300 euros.

“Even if you factor in some of the differences such as the duration of the lease or that our housing had furnishing and a cleaning lady coming in every week, there was still a major premium being paid,” she said.

She added that this policy change will especially benefit international students who want to work back home.

Dames said one of the reasons UCS housing is expensive is because the supply of large residential plots is scarce and landlords know that it is not easy for Yale to find a vacant apartment building with enough space for many students. But she said UCS partners with local alumni and employers to drive down costs to the lowest number possible. Koopmans said UCS absorbs all overhead costs and acts merely as a middle agent at no cost between the students and the landlords.

All four students interviewed who will be interning abroad this summer said they will still use UCS-housing because of its convenience.

“I didn’t know anything about the real estate landscape in London so I wanted to play it safe and just trust a Yale-approved site,” Austin Johnson ’16 said.

Both Dames and Koopmans said the office will be monitoring student feedback to evaluate the effects of the new policy.

UCS offers international internships in 21 countries and offers coordinated housing in 11 countries. The deadline for opting into UCS international housing is April 1.