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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Home Boy

Forgive me, this will not be big, at least at first.

By the time I was six I had lived in three different houses, including the one that I lived in at the time. This was true of twelve and of eighteen but it will not be true of twenty-four. Why? Well, I recently moved to a new abode. And by recently what I mean is that I am typing this on the first Monday in the new place… in a word document because we haven’t, as yet, managed to get the internet sorted out yet.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah, well, the dude who writes this blog is a university student, he’s surely moved out and is now flatting.” Maybe you’re thinking, “Nah, this dude’s never had a job in his life, I doubt he’s flatting… the family home must have shifted.” Now, I don’t know how you’re thinking but if you were thinking along the lines of the latter option, you’d be correct. And if you were also thinking, “He’s moved? In exam season? How’d that work out?” I’ll tell you right now…
On the day we were meant to move I had two three hour exams, so we moved in the day before instead (this also got a discount with the removals firm we used)… and moved out the following day (after nearly 14 hours of graft). “Oh, so he studied instead of packing.” Er, no, I didn’t and because I didn’t I am fairly confident in saying that I failed my fourth exam and, therefore, that course (but I live in hope, which means when I read whatever variety of D in the next month or so it’ll be all the worse). So, you see, as irresponsible as ever.

Right now, though, I feel as if I am on holiday. Now, you might very well think that this makes sense but I can possibly comment and my remarks will be to inform you that despite filling (near enough) two different skips, there’s an entire garage(two car) full of stuff that needs sorting. Now, I’m one of those people who reckons that if you’ve filled up a space, before you can organise that space and fill it more efficiently, you need some more space. Because this is a garage that we’re talking about, that means outside on the driveway but for that you need decent weather, which doesn’t exist and probably won’t until Wednesday. So, you see, my holiday won’t truly start until then. But, for now, I am left alone in a house that reminds me of my grandfather’s… except I’m a short walk from a train station, not the Gold Coast (which while I am not a sun and heat kind of person, I’d prefer).

Once my holidays do start, however, they will last for around a month (assuming two weeks to get everything sorted to satisfaction here) because then I am off to summer school, which is a condensed third semester in January and a bit of February offered by Auckland. Now, at the moment I am using summer school for the “speed up your degree” use but if, as is likely, I did fail ECON 201 (which is a state that I shouldn’t be in because it’s not a hard course, and to anyone who properly studied that exam would’ve been a breeze, maybe even just studied) I will be using it to stay kinda on track (i.e. ECON 201 is offered in summer school).

Mind you, in some ways that would be advantageous (my preference would to not do STATS 301, rather something like 302, but 301 is the only one offered in summer school) but I really, really don’t want to have failed ECON 201… and dealing with those feelings would be so much easier if I had actually conspired to fail at some time in the past. You see I’ve always go through by the skin of my teeth... or ran out of time in that one history external which isn’t a proper fail despite its being the only one I can point at (although those maths exams, I must have got less than 50% in those despite just passing both course). The point, though, is that on balance, I’d much rather take STATS 301 than have to repeat a course and a large part of that is because of my self identity which also involves the following “good at guessing” (which I am hoping allowed me to pass the other exam I didn’t study for: STATS 330) and “lucky” (are you really surprised?).

I don’t know how you’ll understand the above. Maybe you’ll say “Coping mechanism” and maybe you’d be right, I don’t know I am not a psychiatrist. Maybe you’ll say, “How will he segue into bigness? I mean, he’s already sort of foreshadowed how a blog about moving can be big what with all this talk of university and the mentioning of flatting”. That I didn’t have an answer to despite really needing one so I had to fake it. Yep, that’s right, this is the arse-pull where I reveal that what you’ve actually been reading is an extended introduction into the merits and demerits of living at home whilst studying at university.

The traditional view of university living, and in some meaningful way, the “proper” one is students flatting together in the local area. From a theoretical point of view this particular way of doing things has a number of advantages. For instance, one’s commute is going to be twenty minutes or less each way. That means you can pop in to uni at short notice or in the evening after having been at home for most of the day. In other words, you can participate in the university world to a much greater extent. Whether that means additional talks, social activities or whatever else happening in and around campus. In the case unis like Auckland or AUT that are based pretty close to the centre of a city, if you’re the kind of person who gets something out of the nightlife of a city, well that’s probably on your doorstep too. You’re also going to meet a bunch of new people in the course of flatting, right? Thus, the theory expounded in Craccum 2015 exists: student life relies on flatters. It all sounds fairly idyllic though, doesn’t it? I mean, there you are, 8am lecture, you get up at 7:30, shower, bite to eat, out the door and you arrive in time for your lecture, go home and do whatever and then back at uni again at 1pm for your next daily lecture. Why wouldn’t you flat?

The thing with flatting is whether or not you’re in a tower block or a house or whatever, you’ve got living costs and are independent (in theory, you or your parents may own the flat etc.). These can be interpreted pretty easily as advantages. After all, you’re learning to manage your personal finances and how to function as an independent adult. In other words, congratulations, you’ve grown up. Now, again, this sounds good in theory. However, what it often means is that when you’re not at uni or asleep, you’re at work earning enough to a) live off and b) remain where you are living. Flatters are, often, pay-cheque to pay-cheque people. And if you think that sounds great, you’ve clearly never experienced that and your opinion isn’t worth crap.* And, to be honest, if you first experience this when flatting, your opinion isn’t as authoritative as it sounds, at least if you write like this dude. On the other hand, maybe you find somewhere you don’t have to live like that, in which case where’s the problem? Maybe that’s unrealistic? I don’t know.

The other arrangement that this post cares about is that which finds the university student at home. This is interesting because there are so many different ways of doing things. For instance, the parental home doesn’t necessarily mean rent free and when there’s rent it doesn’t always mean mates’ rates either. On the other hand, it often does mean rent free (which is why I am able get away without a job). But, maybe, the defining thing here is distance. If you come from, say, Twizel, you’re obviously unable to live at home and be within a reasonable commute of a university, any university let alone one which you feel you need to go to. For others the parental home could well be next door to four students flatting or even an hour and a half away via a multi-modal commute. Who knows? Yet, even distance (as a proxy for time or vice versa) isn’t alone the kicker. Everything depends on the exact, as it were, covariate pattern. If you live an hour away, most of your (school) friends didn’t go to uni, have to drive yourself in and have to work a job to pay market rent, things are very different to someone who lives an hour away, doesn’t face market rents (and, indeed, doesn’t even work), catches a train and whose friends, by and large, go to the same university. So, how on earth can you generalise? Answer: carefully (at least, without some data and that may just confirm how difficult generalising is).

I think the biggest potential advantage of living at home is that you are actually able to be a full time student. This means that what you do is study and, if you work, it’s just a few hours in the weekend to give you a little bit of spending money… it’s not actually working. Now, this is possible in a flat situation in countries where costs are quite low and it’s possible in New Zealand (or do I mean Auckland?) if you have your parents foot the bills (not sure how many flatters this is). However, a home-based student, and this is something that Craccum’s writers in 2015 never understood, is quite likely (assuming they live further away than a flatter) to not go home. In other words, if you look who is actually on campus for longer it isn’t the flatting demographic. Indeed, flatters may well be more likely to rely on recordings in a perverse twist of fate because of the psychological impact of the thought “Oh, uni’s only a couple of minutes away”. I don’t know for sure, I’m just guessing. On the other hand, if you look at me you see that being a full time student doesn’t mean you actually leverage that advantage.

The life of the commuter can also bring financial savings which could well set someone up better in their post-university life… presuming, of course, that they are able to hack actually moving out and having to be independent. Yet, commuting can take a toll. Imagine, for instance, that there are two club things which last two hours and finish at around 8:15-8:30 on two consecutive days. That’s pretty early all things considered and if you live nearby (e.g. flatters, some home-dwellers) but if you are an hour away suddenly you’re at home at something looking more like 9:30-10pm which is pretty much your entire evening gone, two nights in a row. And what if you started at 8am? You could’ve be up at 5:30am… So, in this sense, despite being around on campus more than flatters, you can see how participating in “student life” and the wider student experience can be more difficult (especially if, as was pointed out by one Craccum writer in their student culture crusade, you’re also going to get a call at 19pm asking where you are). So, the picture is that you’ve got half  student body who find it easier to not be around on campus during lecture hours and you’ve got the other half who find it harder to be around in the evening (and you have Craccum ignoring the first point, although this doesn’t matter as no-one reads Craccum… no thanks to 2015’s editors if you ask me). Also, ask anyone who commutes and they’ll tell you that commuting can take a toll in and of itself.

So, would I recommend either of these? Well, I’d only advise flatting if you can avoid the pay-cheque to pay-cheque situation. Manage that and I think you’ve got the best possible scenario. On the other hand, if you live near campus at home, you’re probably golden too. The problems are with what I think are the majorities. It’s simply a matter of whether or not you’d prefer to the stress of staying afloat or commuting… I don’t think any of the potential advantages clearly swing things so that these two costs are sufficiently unimportant. Both are, to my mind, valid ways of doing things but if your using some random internet blog to decide either way, I think you’re either planning things well in advance or you’d be just as well off flipping a coin. However, if that is you, let me say one last final thing: I think it is much harder to meet new people and make friends with them when you live at home.

*As a general rule, anyone can have any opinion they like. What you have to understand though is that when you want comments on the nature of a particular experience, only people with that experience can actually say what the experience is like. On the other hand, such people are perhaps the worst to remark on why that experience is the way it is, because the distance such an academic question requires doesn’t exist. Point is, the former is the context here.

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