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Example (These cramped Moscow dorms provide a rare glimpse into college life in Russia):

There, he found students living with bedbugs and roaches, underneath leaky ceilings. Obshagas, the Russian word for dorms, are not any of these students' first choice for living accommodations — but due to what Dumont calls “astronomical” rent in the city, many students are left without a choice.

How do you exactly understand that phrase?

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First choice means that out of a selection of different options, this is the option one you would pick first or consider the best.

The phrase comes from the tendency for people to rank their favorites of things in terms of availability. The best would be your first choice, the second best your second choice, and so on.

As such, first choice for (living accommodations) means the accommodations that the students find the most desirable.

Overall, the sentence that phrase is in means that the students do not like the dorms.

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