My first week in London I found a job and all I needed was a home for the next six months. Searching from hostel computers, my friends and I did find a home but we didn’t expect it to be filled with 20 other people.
I was a little hesitant walking into our house because I didn’t know what to expect. Would I get along with everybody? Would it be too cramped? Would I have enough privacy? From the very first day it turned out to be the perfect situation. My roommates were from all over the world – Australia, New Zealand, France, South Africa, Germany, and Spain – and welcomed us wholeheartedly, showed us around the neighborhood, and gave us tips for living in the big city.
Some housemates had either a single room, double room, and in the case of my two friends and I, a triple room. We had a communal bathroom and kitchen on both floors and so we never felt crowded, especially because everyone had such different work schedules. My friends and I could always escape to our room to relax and have dinner if we needed some privacy.
Most of the time though we hung out in the common room with everybody else watching TV or just having some drinks and talking. There were times I realized just how amazing it was to sit in a room and hang out with such a diverse group of people. Instead of living in a flat by myself, it was much better to live in a house full of 20 people knowing that I would be never alone and that there would always be someone to talk to. This fact was especially comforting during the holidays when some of the other housemates stayed at the house because they too could not travel the long distance to be with their families on Christmas Day.
The biggest benefit of living in an international house is the education and perspective you just can’t learn in a classroom. I remember sitting on the stairs talking to my South African housemates during the week of Thanksgiving. My friends and I were telling them how excited we were to be going out for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in the UK and we proceeded to explain how important the holiday is to Americans – the preparation of the food unites families. They loved the idea of this holiday. They went on to tell us what it was like growing up in South Africa with a single mother and how it never fazed them that they had a black nanny because they never distinguished a person by the color of their skin as can be done in other parts of the world. These conversations were so simple and effortless yet made the biggest impact on my perceptions of others from backgrounds different from mine.
I didn’t plan on this type of living arrangement but it made my experience in London that much more rewarding. Now, I have friends from around the world that I keep in touch with and I have a place to stay when I travel to Australia, New Zealand, or France – that’s another added perk as well of living in an international house.
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