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House Hunting in New York

An adventurous way of handling the accommodation question is by deciding to resolve it after arriving at your university abroad. The uncertainty could get stressful but what you could gain is a great many insights into the life and culture of your new home.

New York - I had it all planned out before packing my bags and leaving India.

I had the budget, the interim, the distance, the craigslist search list, everything -- planned.

What I didn’t have was a definite place to stay. The university accommodation was too expensive, too far from campus, and it was full anyway. The university was not going to assist me in finding a home in New York.

Photo by jasonhawkins (Flickr) 

So I landed in New York, crashed on a friend’s couch in New Jersey and started looking. After about 10 days of overstaying my welcome and suffering two-hour long commutes to campus, I zeroed in on a room to rent.

It seemed nice enough - especially since I considered myself not fussy - and I had experienced boarding school dorm-life. How much worse could it be?

As it turned out, it could be worse. 

My new apartment was 40 blocks from my University, very accessible from the subway and was in a very safe and well-lit area of Manhattan. There were five others sharing the space, and I luckily managed to get a room to myself. 

Quirky Landlord

The owner/main lease-holder was a 60 year-old man called John. There was also a Turkish girl, a Chinese girl, an aspiring American actor, and some other guy whom I never saw. He moved out eventually, and a girl called Melanie moved in, in his place.  

The silver lining came when a friend of a friend found me a room at the International House - which led to the start of a great experience; the discovery of new friends and a real taste of living in New York

We all shared a bathroom and kitchen. The lack of hygiene standards didn't make me very happy, but I believed I could speak to the other roommates and fix that problem. They all seemed fairly sweet, but we never hung out together. Everyone kept to themselves in their own rooms, or spent time out of the apartment.

The place was jammed with boxes of the landlord's stuff that lined the corridor, and were tucked away in various nooks and crannies in every single room of the apartment. My room was the biggest in the apartment. However I lost about 12 feet of space, which was taken up by John’s boxes, hidden behind a curtain.

All seemed fine except that John would think nothing of going into other people’s rooms when they were not around and looking through their personal possessions! I told him it was something I didn’t like, but got the feeling that he would do it anyway.

Rules of The Apartment

John the Landlord told me he didn’t want the common area to be too clean. I was “allowed” to clean the toilet and the bathtub - but he didn’t want me to ask anyone else to clean up after them as that was not something he discussed with them when they moved in.

As a result, the Chinese girl would have pickled scorpions and chili sauce and chicken bones lying around the kitchen. The dish washing scrub had to be at least five years old. The showerhead in the bathroom would suddenly shift for no apparent reason, and I was told to make sure I let the cold water run through the pipes after a bath so that the pipes didn't have to be replaced too often.

John slept in the walk-in closet - which was about the same size as a single bed. Along with himself, the room contained a mattress of sorts, a TV, and a computer.

I never saw a light inside and there was definitely no window - so he justified his need to access my room to look out of my window. No amount of requesting him to stop entering my room unasked, actually worked.

Unsurprisingly, the deal broke. Thus began the long, depressing search for a nice, clean apartment that fitted my budget, in a location that was both safe and convenient to campus. And of course, the pack-and-move was going to be a hassle.

The silver lining came when a friend of a friend found me a room at the International House - which led to the start of a great experience; the discovery of new friends and a real taste of living in New York City. 

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