Flatting as a full-time student and part-time head chef, janitor, and counsellor
If you were to ask me at the tail-end of high school who I would be flatting with by the time I start uni, I would’ve laughed and said I was going to be with my parents for as long as possible. Who wouldn’t jump at the idea of financial support and pampering for your young-adult life all at the expense of loud music or intimate hookups? Of course, these were baby bird thoughts. By the time I reached 18 I dreaded the idea of losing individuality. For the first year, I stayed in O’Rorke Hall and I was given a taste of what it meant to live on my own terms. Naturally, I got addicted and also felt comfortable in the new prospect of flatting with peers my age. Unfortunately, while I made a share of friends during my accommodation, lockdown pressures limited us residents from immediate flatting and I was lost on thinking where to go.
This led to enlisting two mates from high school. Now, I had known these guys for half a decade and we’ve been really close for the entire time even during my Hall days. The idea of flatting with them had always been a topic of discussion, yet now that it was a realistic idea, I couldn’t say no. On the day we moved into the North Shore flat, my confidence was at an all-time high. I had known these guys for years. I’d told them so much about myself I couldn’t surprise them. We survived high school together so really I didn’t see anything that could go wrong…. then I realised I was the only one going to uni.
My first flatmate, Brad* I have known for longest and went to South Seas for a one-year diploma. He finished up study by the time I moved out of Halls and now works two jobs between a winery/bistro and a bar (our flat is more than covered on the drinks side of things). The second flatmate, Caleb* hadn’t spent a second in tertiary and works full-time for security at a vaccination centre. Both are stacked for cash while I slog away with good ol’ student allowance. I constantly feel left out of going places because of the woes of allowance funding. Even with a part-time bar job on the side, I’m the designated broke person of the house. 60% of my money goes to the rent and bills leaving me a fraction of what my flatmates spend on an average shopping day. But that’s just the uni woes kicking in when they walk in with a new game or an addition to the ever growing flat vinyl collection.
Being the only student also means a real conflict of schedules between the three of us. Outside of my night shifts on Fridays and Saturdays, I’m home bound on my laptop at all times. Since they’re daytime workers majority of the time, I’m totally alone in the flat and the world is my oyster. I’ve lost count on the hours of music I’ve blasted and the naps I’ve taken on the couch with no bother or hassle for space. There are no complaints of how much bass I jam or the song choices that I often get shifty eyes for. I can park myself in the lounge and watch lectures on the big-screen TV if I want (not that I do because I’m a student at home who definitely keeps up to date with academics). I’m in total control of my area and I’d be damned to lose confidence.
However, the second there’s someone else in the lounge I’m in trouble. I often fall back into my social mode with my two flatmates. Them not having study or much pressure outside of work means they can talk for centuries with me and I can’t help but fall into it being so alone in the academic grind. Studying is the bane of my existence, so any push to procrastinate is more than welcome. The conversations are mostly about nothing, which adds fuel to my already burning anxiety over my lack of studying. At times, I totally forget I’m a student in these chats, and man do I get second-hand stress about my newfound identity crisis.
The most interesting part of my flat in particular is that I’m the only one that cooks. I wasn’t lying before when I mentioned they earn enough to order UberEats like there’s no tomorrow. Apart from drinks or chippy snacks from the fridge, the two mates barely set foot near the stove or sinks. Sure, I get more freedom here and can cook anything from oven baked chicken to onion fried steak, but in turn I get the natural responsibility of all—looking after the damn place. One time, I caught a bad smell when Caleb was in the kitchen, and to our horror, we found the potatoes in our shelf had liquified into mush. The smell was one of the worst in my recent memory and it only happened because of an excess of my groceries for the week. Anything that goes wrong in the kitchen is on me, including dishwashing, as I use the most cutlery and dishware. We look after our own spaces, but I always get help from the two flatmates if it gets too much between studies. If only allowance was on par with my flatmates paychecks, I wouldn’t be in the depths of grease and oils while studying my heart out.
But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t pass my flat up for the world. As the designated flat student, I definitely feel a disconnect from my working flatmates and the procrastinating bug stings the hardest when they’re here and we have fun. But after all is said and done—the stresses of uni work and post-lockdown world aside—there’s no question about how great living with these two are and how much enjoyment I get just by sharing the space with them… I mean if they could at least share some of their paychecks I wouldn’t complain, but you reap what you sow.
*names have been changed