London was the first city in which I had to find my own place to live – domestically or internationally. I was there pursuing my Masters and I wanted a different living experience than the dorms. I was a bit overwhelmed by the task before me.
Fortunately, there was a website set up for incoming students to find flatmates prior to arriving in London. Also, the school did provide housing for a week and access to the Accommodations Office with computer stations set up.
I figured the more I pre-planned and prepared, the less stress I’d deal with down the road. I scoured the site. Looking for any commonality with others, I clicked on a thread referencing a favorite film of mine, ‘L’Auberge Espagnole.’ This thread proved successful.
By the time I left for London I had “secured” a group to live with. Each member of the group of four seemed pretty cool. My second day in London, I met with the other girl in our group. She was very nice and I thought we’d get along well.
There was one major obstacle to finding a flat. The easiest way be in contact with the letting agents was by mobile, but you couldn’t get a mobile without an address and you couldn’t get an address without the aid of a mobile – a bit of a Catch-22.
Also, I was meeting a lot of people. Everyone was trying each other out. You met, if they were nice, you got coffee. From there you might not see that person again, or they might be your friend, or they might be your friend until they found a new friend they liked more. It was quite an emotional roller coaster. At the end of each day I wanted a safe place to retreat. I looked forward to the rest of our group arriving to move this along.
Then our group organizer arrived. He seemed nice but I wasn’t sure how living together would be. He found a flat the following day and he, a new girl he met, and I went to check it out. The place, neighborhood and location were fine, but something in my gut told me this wasn’t right for me. The other two wanted to put money down that day. I tried rationalizing away my doubts but I couldn’t. I told them to go ahead without me. I’d find other arrangements.
This was a let down. The safety net of my preformed group was gone. The original girl from the group and I decided to look together. We couldn’t afford much just the two of us. She ended up getting a spot in the dorms. I had to start over from scratch.
From all of my bouncing around meeting people, I met a girl from Sweden. We got on well and decided to look for flats. A day later she met two other girls who were also interested in living with us. I could see when we hung out that those three were getting chummy and I was becoming the fourth wheel. We went to look at a flat. It was three bedrooms and they really liked it. I knew I was out.
Three let downs in one week was exhausting. London, my favorite city in the world, was throwing me some curveballs. I was back in the Accommodations Office staring at a computer screen and feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and hurt as tears began to roll down my face. I only had a few more days to find a place to live before I’d have to see if I could get a spot in the dorms, something I really didn’t want to do.
It didn’t dawn on me that I was probably not the only person whose plans fell through until I overheard the conversation taking place next to me. A group had found a flat, put money down, and then their original fifth had changed her mind.
I didn’t know these people but I took a chance. Only one way to find out, right? I asked about the flat, we went up to see it, and this time my gut didn’t twinge. I said I’d be their fifth if they wanted me. They did. We moved in a couple days later.
Finding a safe place to retreat after all the stresses of the day (and that week in particular) felt great. Despite trying to be prepared prior to arrival in London, I found that you can’t plan for everything. You just have to keep trying to make new plans until they work and eventually the right plans will.