What type of car insurance do I buy? How long do I cook chicken breast for? Is it okay to keep eggs in the cupboard and not the fridge? All of these questions and more filled my head my first few weeks in Dunedin. At the University of Otago students on exchange are in the UniFlat system, which is apartment style living where you have to be totally self-sufficient. From cleaning the shared bathroom to buying group paper towels, UniFlats feels like living off campus (without knowing how much your heating costs).
Ever since the second week of eating dorm food my freshman year at Northwestern, I have been dreaming of living off-campus and making meals for myself. What I didn’t include in this dream was budgeting for food, carrying overly filled grocery bags home, or having to factor extra time for cooking into my day. In addition to being in a new country and developing a new routine, I had to learn how to fully live on my own. It quickly made sense why college students have a ramen-eating reputation.
The adulting didn’t stop at meal making, buying a car quickly came to the forefront of my mind. The University of Otago has a very walkable campus, and a multitude of well-kept bike lanes. It’s great for a college campus but you can’t easily bike to Fiordland on the weekend, so many University of Otago students buy cars with friends to use for adventuring. A few friends and I decided to buy a car together for the semester with the hopes of selling it off once we leave. We test drove two cars.
The first car: A cute red station wagon, automatic drive, good kilometrage. The only caveat: the seller was a car-flipper. When we arrived to test drive the car, the seller told us to hold on while he went off to try to find the keys. Instead of entering his house to look, he opened the doors to each of the eight cars parked on the street to look for them. Then, when we asked him about the car’s history he smiled and said,
“Oh I really don’t know, I haven’t owned it for that long.” To top it all off, after giving us the keys he promptly lifted the hood and started to work on the car down the street from his home. The bigger problem than the car flipping was the gurgling noise the little red car made and how it rode so low to the ground that it felt like the bottoms of our feet were going to scrape the road.
The second car: A 4WD black Mazda, bought brand new the last semester, recently mechanic checked, automatic drive. The seller was an international student from the last semester who was better than we were at negotiating prices. When we test drove the car, we all felt confident so we opted to pay a bit more for this safer car experience. We named our new car Fenton.
From making four weeks’ worth of purple cabbage soup, to googling car insurance until the words blurred together on the screen, living on my own has been a trial and error process. With each day, cooking gets easier, my budgeting faster, and my preparedness for unforeseen costs better. I’m excited to look back on this first month at the end of the semester to see how my living skills have grown, and then to bring this newfound knowledge back to Northwestern when I move into my off-campus house winter quarter.