Study abroad: home hunt in Vancouver

Published

Credit: Erin Gallagher

Roise Nic An Beatha
Writer

It was with great delight that I booked my flights to Vancouver, leaving mid-August for my study abroad semester in Canada. My classes didn’t start until the beginning of September, but I was an eager beaver, and had the small issue of needing somewhere to live since I had missed the boat for student accommodation!

I left my festival job in Edinburgh, packing the necessities in a hectic rush the night before I left on my eight hour flight to Toronto. Arriving, tired but rejuvenated by the fact that I was in Canada, I rushed through Canadian border security just in time to catch my connecting flight to Edmonton. Spirits dipped slightly when the air hostess on the flight announced that a passenger was having a heart attack in row F.

I must admit that when I arrived in Vancouver I hadn’t done such a good job at keeping positive. Kitted in my winter gear, prepared for the Canadian Christmas, I stepped out into a 30 degrees heat wave. My heart sunk, the first indication that the minimal clothing I had packed might not be as practical as I’d thought. Now awake for over 24 hours, I clambered my way to what was to be my accommodation for (supposedly) the next eight days; a dilapidated hostel called Jericho, situated by the Vancouver seaside.

The next morning I awoke with minor jet-lag and the amazement of being in Canada. The sun shone and the sea beckoned me. I went paddle boarding, contemplating with each stroke how life was my oyster. When I returned to the hostel I had a new sense of purpose. Laptop in hand, I set out to find somewhere to live.

Unfortunately, there’s a housing crisis in Vancouver, and I was definitely in crisis mode when I checked into the Jericho for my fifth time. My initial eight days at the hostel had not been enough. I was now into my second week of searching for somewhere to live, the Jericho staff knew me by my first name, and classes were looming in the near future. My one solace was that I had found kinship in a fellow exchange student from Australia, a guy who, like me, was searching for somewhere to live. We would congregate in the hostel foyer and cry over our homelessness together. Success hit when I got my first flat viewing. A lovely man called Rob contacted me about his flat in East Hastings. Described as a “friendly home”, the location was good and the price was not to be sniffed at. An added bonus, Rob seemed like a decent guy. What could go wrong?

When Rob opened the door and turned out to be a 60 year old man I’ll admit, I began to have my doubts. A waft of something stronger than weed exuded from Rob’s presence, but I am not one to judge a book by its cover. I let him give me a tour of the house. The basement room – the room I was to stay in – was an underground bunker, decorated with what I believe to be real sheepskin. The kitchen contained a precarious looking meth lab and the sitting room was the literal definition of “communal”. I left the house with a polite “I’ll think about it’’. It was a new low. I was beginning to think the Divine was sending me signs that perhaps Vancouver was not the place for me. To make matters worse, the Aussie had found somewhere to live so I was now alone in my search. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt; it is hard to stay down in an amazing city. That night I watched the season finale of Game of Thrones in a lovely Canadian bar and was revived.

Skip forward one week: multiple flat viewings, many dodgy landlords and a few minor breakdowns later, I have managed to find somewhere to stay. Cheap(ish), close to my university, and living with students, I can safely say it is the better of many options. Just in time too, as classes start soon! I can’t say my new flatmates will be as eccentric as Rob and his community, but the bong in our cupboard may prove me wrong. Either way, I have a home and I am feeling a-okay about the road that lies ahead!