In her second Postcard Faye Docherty discusses what lessons can only be learned once you finally move out of home and all the cultural differences, charms and craziness that comes with being a student in Lund.
Like many UCD students, I still live at home. I’ve always been torn over whether I should move out or not while I’m still at college. So, when I was accepted to come to Lund I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to find out. So far, it is pretty evident that there are many comforts and luxuries that student housing lacks. However, I am only now starting to see how many aspects of student life I’ve been missing out on by living at home these past three years.
I live in Spoletorp South, a 125-unit student-housing block filled with people from all over the world. Living in one of the international corridors has many perks. It is great for making new friends and it tends to have the best and most frequent parties. I live in a flat with eight rooms, there are four girls, four boys and only half of us speak English as our first language. Living with complete strangers who constantly struggle over a language barrier proves a great source of entertainment and awkwardness. ‘Culture shocks’ appear almost every day, however at this stage there is not much that shocks me anymore.
All across Lund there is student accommodation, some better than others. In my opinion I live in the best housing Lund has to offer. Not only is it right in the centre of town but also it is beside the train station, the main supermarket and the off license. Our flat is big and spacious; the kitchen has plenty of utensils and cooking facilities. For me, the main perk of Spoletorp South is that every room has its own bathroom, microwave and fridge. Although I spend a lot of time in my flat’s common area, there is something strangely comforting in knowing that I could live sufficiently happy without ever needing to leave my room. The kitchen, and whether it’s clean or not, seems to be the biggest area of contention for most students living together. Most arguments revolve around whose dirty plate was left in the sink for just that one day (or week) too long. The kitchen also highlights cultural differences. As long as the kitchen doesn’t look like it’s been hit by a bomb I’m fairly content, however many of my foreign flat mates have much higher standards.
Most corridors integrate with one another on regular occasions. Pre-drinks are usually on one floor and anybody who is going out that night is invited. Dinners between the different corridors happen regularly. It is a great way to meet the other international students in my building, especially in a rare environment that doesn’t involve going out and drinking. Before I came to Lund I knew that the people who came on Erasmus would be willing to get involved and learn new things, however I never really realised how open and friendly people would be.
The longer I am away from Ireland the more I’ve begun to notice the serious difference between Irish students and their foreign counterparts. After my flat threw its very first ‘corridor party’ I was expecting half of the kitchen utensils and food to be gone. I had prepared myself to wake up the next morning and find no toaster and no kettle. In all honesty even the disappearance of the kitchen sink wouldn’t have shocked me. Instead, everything remained in its place for the whole night. Not only do students in Lund walk away from house parties empty handed but they also happen to be a lot calmer on nights out. I have yet to witness a fight or serious argument. In Dublin, a night out normally ends with a scrap outside a club, but in Lund it tends to end with a falafel.
Not only have I been learning about different cultures since moving away from home but I’ve also been trying my hand at budgeting. Organising my finances, well what little finances I have, is in no way fun. Fortunately in Dublin I have a regular part time job which means I don’t usually fret over what I spend. However it is impossible for me to find work in Lund because I can’t speak Swedish. When a regular paycheck vanishes, the panic tends to set in. Postponing a weekly shop to the middle of the week is fast becoming a habit and eating things like cereal for dinner is not as farfetched as one would think. The situation is also not helped by the fact that Sweden is so expensive. All jokes aside, it is the first time in my life I have ever thought Ireland to be cheap.
So far I believe I’m learning many things that are only possible once you ‘leave the nest’ so to speak. The cultural differences, student housing and financial problems really cement my feeling of being far away from Dublin. Although ‘there’s no place like home’ (thank you Dorothy) my lifestyle in Lund is suiting me just fine for the moment.