Updated: Jun 30
Which is the first STEP when you're about to move to another Country for a studying exchange or a working experience? Definitely finding a PLACE to stay.
Which is the best location? What is the price range in the area? Where can I find offers and ads? Shall I take a studio on my own or sharing a flat with other roommates? Should I trust the person advertising it? These are the common CONCERNS that everybody has at the beginning.
Finding a place where to live abroad is NOT easy. Most of the time you don't know the city, you don't have any clue about the best spots and looking on the internet is definitely not like visiting an apartment in person. Stories of fake ads, frauds and flats that absolutely don't correspond to the pictures are so frequent that we really need to be CAUTIOUS!
I know very well the FEELING of being insecure and under pressure when the departure date is close. You'd better find an apartment before leaving just because this makes you feel RELIEVED and gives you a reference point once you're abroad, which is extremely important, especially if you're alone.
The BEST thing, in my opinion, is to book an AirBnb for the first period. In this way, it's much easier once arrived to understand the most suitable location in the city, how the transport system works and the most lively neighbourhoods. Even more important is the fact that you can VISIT the apartment and MEET the roommates, share a beer, have a chat and see if there's a certain FEELING, if you can see yourself living in the place. Getting on very well with someone doesn't mean you can live together, it's not always the case. You can love your best friend but the two of you could't live together for example!
In other cases, the initial AirBnb can also end up being your future flat, it happened to someone that I know well, that's luck! :D
Anyway, there's no need to RUSH. Facebook is full of groups of students abroad and there are new ads on a daily basis so definitely no need to stress, better to find the RIGHT flat to share with the right PEOPLE instead.
We all know that living with someone is quite hard. It means sharing spaces and time, adapt your RHYTHM and your priorities to the other ones, use common sense and deal with the cleaning topic, which is normally the most arduous :D
BUT, living with new people when you travel abroad TEACHES you so much, especially if you don't know them. The thing is, when you're put into a situation when there are strangers around you, you‘re extremely open and you try your best to get to know them, to create a real relationship. Nobody knows who you are, your past, your personality, it's like a brand-new BOOK totally opened to be read. And believe me, you end up discovering things about YOURSELF that you didn't know before.
Everybody is different, various interests and stories to tell, passions. Without even realising it, living with other people enlarges your HORIZONS, ignites your soul and enriches your personality with small INFLUENCES from all the others.
I bring with me something from everybody I‘be been meeting during my experience and this has definitely helped forging my PERSONALITY!
Sharing means being in the same situation and creates a special feeling. You get to understand that it's not all about YOU. You don't mind sharing a meal, borrow your socks (they always disappear mysteriously!!) and cloth or offering to help if someone is in trouble.
Being far away from your stability and your comfort-zone is hectic, we always need SOMEONE else to trust and to help us being ourself, even if we don't realise it easily.
When I lived in Montréal, my roommates and I used to have a weekly MEAL roaster so that everybody once per week had to cook for all the others. It was so nice to see someone coming late from work or university enjoying a hot dish instead of still finding the time to cook something just for himself. It was always the occasion to eat together and have a moment to share what happened during the day and make a nice plan for the weekend. Also, when you do something for the others, you try your best, you make a special effort because you’re aware that the reward is seeing their HAPPY faces.
3. CULTURAL MIX
When you're abroad, there are generally people from all over the WORLD moving to study or to work. You easily get to know their cultural habits, how they celebrate festivities, the typical recipes and music. It makes you understand how different and amazing the world is in all its SHADES. (Apart from the PINEAPPLE pizza Hugo :D)
One of the best memories I have so far is last CHRISTMAS. It was the first time I happened to spend it abroad and honestly, I was quite concerned. Christmas means family, love, traditions and it's very important for me and all my relatives. We celebrated it at Victoria, our house in Montréal and we ended up being more than 20! Not only roommates, but also friends of friends, people abroad in the same situation, far away from their home and beloved. Who wants to spend Christmas alone? To skip a common meal all together and the magic atmosphere that comes with? Everybody brought something to eat, we decorated the living room nicely, we even bought some gifts for the Secret Santa to share. How beautiful is this, people from all over the world, some of them only met that night, celebrating together a family festivity?
I felt family 7700km far away from home, wow.
When it comes to organise a trip all together, to cook a common dish, and yes, to CLEAN, doing it together is just more fun!
In Chambéry I lived with my roommates from Italy, The JUNGLE team. Who knows me well is aware that I'm an incredible motivator and during the exam session we all gathered in the living room to revise the courses. Just the fact of doing it together, to share our knowledge, to go through a tough period with the SUPPORT of the others made everything easier!
5. HUMOUR BALANCE
Living with other people is a balance for your humour and this is one of the things that I prefer. Whenever you're back home, upset and tired after a hard day, finding a SMILE to welcome you, someone who cares about how you're doing and ready to make a nice suggestion for the evening just betters your day.
A kind <<Good Morning>>, someone who prepares the coffee for you, a HUG when you need it, just simple things that makes you feel good. It's motivating and stimulating.
The Jungle went through difficult periods, not always laughing and smiling all the time as one can perceive from the outside. When one was having troubles, we were all there to help and we didn't let her down, we always kept a special BOND.
Last year in Canada was the first time I left Italy totally alone. I actually had two different kinds of experience: one pretty bad and the other one just amazing.
My first shared apartment was definitely not a good memory for me (except for meeting my dear Thomas and Charlotte!). At the beginning I had a MIXTURE of different feelings: the excitement of the adventure and the fear of the unknown at the same time. I felt alone, not supported, I felt like someone was just taking advantage of my situation as last arrived and still inexperienced. This influenced my humour and also my health situation. I stopped eating and I had several issues caused by the STRESSING and uncomfortable situation. You don’t want your family of friends overseas to worry, so you just keep it for you and you try to move on all by yourself.
Until I just decided than that was my experience and nobody had the right to ruin it, I could simply look for another flat and meet new people, just the bravery to make a CHANGE. Thanks God, I did it and I found VICTORIA and all the crew!
This is just to tell you that the life of who moves abroad is not always amazing and incredible as it can seem, you have to pass through many difficulties and obstacles before you find YOUR balance.
Victoria is not just a pretty old brick house in Montréal, it's been home for so many young people all coming from different parts of the world, most of the time arriving alone, with no clue of what was waiting for them. Victoria is my Canadian family and now it's not only located in 5089 Avenue Victoria, it's pretty much SPREAD all over the world, but the MAGIC remains the same.
And The Jungle? The Jungle is 4 girls with quite different characters that complete each other as a PUZZLE; it's 4 girls that love travelling and share a PASSION for the world; it's 4 crazy human beings that no matter in which corner of the world they happen to be, they will always be THERE for each other.
The current experience in South Africa is quite different, I'm the ONLY intern living in the property because of the low season. The fact of being often ALONE just made me understand even more the importance of living with someone who makes you feel HOME thousands of miles away from it.
A roommate is not just a room mate, it's for LIFE.