With the beginning of classes, everyone is eager to make small talk with the people they will be seeing in lecture for the next four months. Of course, questions include, where are you from, what are you studying, and where are you staying. The first time I was asked where I was staying by a New Zealander, the conversation went something like this:
Kiwi: “Will you be staying in a flat or in a hostel?”
Me: “Oh, well, umm, I’m actually staying on campus. In a dorm.”
Kiwi: “Oh, o-kaay?”
Little did I know that a hostel is what Kiwis call a dormitory. Life in the Walter Dyer “hostel” has fared me well so far. I have enjoyed getting to know the people on my corridor and living like a full-fledged New Zealand student. While the hostel has been comparable to life in Carl Becker House or Balch Hall at Cornell, certain things are obviously different. Of course like American Universities, all the girls gather around the TV for “Grey’s Anatomy” night to hear about Meredith, Kristina, Izzy, and George’s newest problems at the Seattle hospital. However, looking around the hostel, it becomes apparent I am not in American anymore.
One of the things that intrigues me the most is the window for my room. The window opens rather freely and yet there is no screen on it. Now, this poses two problems. First off, I have seen a rather large population of various insects come through my room. Since most bugs don’t bother me, I’m okay with that. The second problem is the ease with which students can exit through their windows. Called a nation addicted to adrenaline, plastered on all the windows are friendly stickers reminding residents, “All ledges and architectural structures are strictly out of bounds. Failure to comply liable to disciplinary action.” Where in the US we might worry about things being thrown out of the window or bugs entering our rooms, here the worry is that students might just try and scale the building façade or perform some other “daredevil” type activity!
Leaving my room and walking toward the bathrooms, there is a familiar site: a Purell machine just like the ones in many of Cornell’s dining rooms. However, as you get close to the dispenser, there are two signs detailing how to use Purrell and the benefits of its use. To me, this is such a difference from the United States where it seems like we come out of the womb with a fear of germs. I don’t think there is such a fear here. In fact, it is not uncommon to see people bare foot, wherever you happen to be. Go to the dining hall, see someone barefoot. Go to class, see someone barefoot. Go to the supermarket, see someone barefoot. Quite frankly, I would be a little bit worried about contracting some sort of foot “fungus”, but no one else really seems to care.
I will admit I have been spoiled in my prior college housing. I no longer have high speed internet, multiple electrical outlets, or even a shower tall enough for me to fully stand under. While I vaguely miss these things, I have embraced what I would call the New Zealand motto, “No worries.” I am enjoying the idea that shoes are almost always optional or that sand in the hallway is pretty normal. Being someone who would characterize myself as a total Type-A personality, living in “Wally D” has been a wake-up call for me to relax, to be more patient, and to enjoy life. It is a reminder that there is more to university than just classes and a reminder to experience life.