I don’t know how Auckland became one of the most livable cities in the world, but living by myself here as an Asian student has been a battle every single day.
School has been hectic from the first week. We go to lectures on Monday and spend the rest of the week absorbing the new knowledge through tutorials, team-based learning activities, workshops and self-study. It’s an extremely interesting course and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn something new everyday, but the workload seems a little too much. Assignments and group-work just went on and on. In early May it got a bit more intense with two 120-minute tests and one presentation in one week, which drained all of my energy and took me a fortnight to recover.
Everything is freaking expensive in Auckland, even a far cry from many European cities I’ve been to. I pay $210 (*) per week (not per month) for a tiny single room in Mt Wellington which takes me nearly two hours to commute to and from the campus. That’s two times higher than my rent in Milan last September. What else? Food and drinks expenses range from $80 to 100 per week (I cook everyday). A monthly bus/train pass costs $210. Oh, and sportswear is sort of a luxury. $600 for a travel rain jacket!
Auckland suburbs aren’t really pedestrian-friendly. I can make a long list of roads and intersections without zebra crossings in my neighborhood, but the Panmure roundabout near my home is the worst nightmare with big trucks and cars approaching from seven different lanes. So either I have to risk my life crossing the terrifying traffic or merely waiting for the drivers’ mercy. In fact I already gave up taking trains at the Panmure station after the very first time walking through that deadly intersection.
To some extent it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to live without a car in Auckland. Supermarkets either do no delivery or charge up to $60-90 for the service. I recall it was one day before the Easter break when I moved to an unfurnished room in Mt Wellington and really needed to buy a mattress to sleep on. Since delivery would take days, G and I ended up carrying a cumbersome mattress, pillows and bedding sheets all the way home for nearly 2km. When he left a few days later, it was just me wrestling with furniture shopping and spending a fortune on Uber.
It’s never easy to live abroad especially when I come from a socially and politically different country that’s still dependent on ODA sources. But this unexpected culture shock made me question myself and my adaptability. Have I really grown up after surviving all those years of stressful work and five months in Europe?
(*): Numbers are in NZ dollars. NZ$100 is approximate to 69 US dollars and 63 euros.