I am Emma, fully Italian, and I have been happily living and studying in Milan for the last four years, since I was accepted to Bocconi university. I am an exchange student from Bocconi University. I am currently on exchange in ANU for 1 semester.
I enjoyed the Milanese life to the fullest and it was just as you would imagine it: good food, nice shops, new buildings and a lot of fashion. In Milan, University accommodations are mainly for internationals, as the city is crowded and the university cannot offer a stay to all its students, so most of us had to find and rent a private apartment for their studies, which was not an easy, nor a cheap task.
It took several months for me to find an accommodation in Milan, but it was worth it. I lived in a rather big apartment at the last floor of a renewed building with my best friend, just a couple of minutes away from the school. We had everything we needed: two bedrooms and bathrooms, a clean kitchen and a huge window that would flood the place with light. We had our personal space and privacy and all the peace and silence needed for studying. To me, that was the closest we could get to perfection.
Then I was accepted for an exchange at ANU, in Canberra. It took me a while to realize that I would have to live in a University accommodation, but it was apparently the most convenient and safest option and I had always considered myself a flexible person, so I accepted that. However, as I had travelled a lot and had already had two exchange experiences, I knew exactly what I wanted: single room, with personal bath and kitchen. I was certainly not willing to share any room with strangers, as my experience had taught me that even the nicest people can become unbearable in the long term and that most of them are just not able or interested in cleaning. So, I applied for a university lodge that would satisfy these requirements. In fact, ANU allows to apply for accommodations by stating one’s first preference quickly and easily online and it always gives you an accommodation (provided if you meet the deadline and eligibility criteria for first-year guarantee), although it cannot guarantee to meet that exact preference.
That day, the destiny decided that it was time for me to learn something new. I was not accepted in my first choice – instead I got accepted to Fenner Hall. The rent was 290AUD per week and the accommodation is located at the exact center of campus – two minutes away from basically anything. Single room, mixed-gender floor, floor shared bathrooms and common kitchen spaces for the whole building. At first, I was baffled. I was not happy and definitely not ready to adapt to such a living situation. It was too late to look for something else, so I accepted the offer.
I arrived at Fenner Hall on a Sunday of July, after a 25-hour flight, exhausted and dreaming of a hot shower. My first trip to the common, neutral gender bathroom was full of doubts and thoughts: did people just wear a towel while heading to the shower? or were we supposed to wear clothes and change in the bathroom? What would happen if I went to the bathroom and forgot the electronic key inside the room? Who should I call? Would it be weird to then reach the reception wearing flip flops and a hair towel? Would I ever have the bravery to cook in that common kitchen?
I received all answers to those questions within the first week.
First, people just do not care of what you wear when you are heading to the bathroom, nor anywhere else: they are not going to judge you and will be happy if you are happy in your own clothes, no matter if you are wearing a branded jacket or just your old, favorite Christmas sweater. Moreover, you rarely meet people in the common bathrooms: apparently, we all have different timings and schedules!
Second, people get locked out all the time, in the most ridiculous outfits. Once again, no one cares, and you will just end up laughing about it. The reception is always there to help and support you anyways.
Corridors and bathrooms are not heated. Why? I still do not know. The building is very new, common room is not heated at this time of the year. The kitchen and ground floors are warmed for a few hours per day.
Fourth, common spaces get cleaned daily by the cleaners, so both bathrooms and kitchen are perfectly livable, even for clean-freaks like me. The true issue was with the cooking equipment (pots, pans, crockery, cutlery, etc), which we had to buy ourselves and had to fit in our small personal locker, together with your kitchen supplies. There are fridges you can use (but you have to share) too.
As I live in Fenner, I find that there is so much more to Fenner than just living in a University accommodation. Sharing is beautiful, human contact is important and makes the difference. People in Fenner Hall are just the nicest and are genuinely interested in getting to know new residents. You will always bump into someone or something new in the hall and get questions and suggestions on your meal preparation in the kitchen. You will try new tastes, speak new languages and grow new habits. You will casually end up in your floor lounge at tea night looking for cookies (and will be offered snackable crickets instead, haha); you will sip coffee in the study rooms with people you just met and whose name you cannot pronounce and organize pasta-parties or incredibly long trips along the golden coast with them. You will play pool at the ground floor after a night out and you will enter one or many of the clubs that seem to pop up every day. You will participate to the Fenner “murder” week (not real Murder, don’t worry) and just chase strangers along the building, and you will get overly excited over the free food that is constantly offered to residents. You will feel happy, loved and involved and at no time will you feel cold, nor miss your personal spaces or perfectly clean kitchen.
Eventually, I can now say that Fenner Hall was one of the best things that ever happened to me and I could not be more grateful that I did not get what I thought I wanted.