Is it a bad idea to live with a friend from university on my year abroad?
A friend of mine from my university course is also moving to Berlin for her year abroad and we were considering living together. However I've recently started to worry that this will prevent me from meeting new people and from practicing my German, but I don't want to offend her or make her feel like I'm abandoning her. Help?!
This question was asked on 30th July 2014 and has been read 4197 times.
I lived with a friend from university on my year abroad and it has its positives and negatives. It's great to have someone there you know with whom you can share tips and advice, and to keep the homesickness at bay. However, even if you have the intention of speaking the target language with them, chances are you won't actually stick to that. If you're the type that needs pushing to speak the foreign language then maybe try to find somewhere with natives so you have to interact with them every day. There's also a chance that you'll feel like you have to do everything with them or that you might get a bit tired of them after a whole year, so make sure you can get along for that long! I would say if you get on well now and would like someone from home as support and a ready-made friend when you move then go for it, but maybe try to find a shared flat for both of you with natives so you can make more new friends and practice the language every day.
When I was assigned my university town for my YA I was in a totally different place to my mates - a felt a little bit gutted but tried to be positive about it. Turns out it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Because I was so far out of my comfort zone I had to push myself to make the most of the experience. I made incredible new friends and my language abilities really improved which I know for a fact would not have happened if I had been with my friends. This year is going to fly by, and of course you'll miss friends and family, but the most challenging situations always have the greatest outcomes. You should definitely consider living with natives and not with your friends because it will give you the exact kind of independence that a year abroad is designed to give you.
I think living with a native is key to improving your language skills and finding a social group. You don't have this opportunity if you live with an English speaker and in my experience it puts too much pressure on your English social group.
I lived with a local for the first 3 months, but she lost her job and had to move away so I started searching for a new flatmate. I received an email from a girl studying at another university who had found the blog that I was writing and was coming to the city for the last 4 months of my stay. I told her that I was looking for a flatmate and kept the spare room free for her.
I emailed her giving advice on what to bring and how to get here. She arrived at the same time when my partner was visiting, but we spent lots of time with her because we didn't want her to feel alone. I knew how scary it was for me when I moved abroad and I wanted to help her in any way that I could. I printed off maps of the city for her, gave her advice on what to do and where to go and introduced her to my friends. I cleaned the free room and set out all the things she needed, such as bedding and towels.
We got on really well at first and it was great to be able to come home and speak English and share our struggles together. After a month or so she asked if I wanted to go and visit another city with her. I had already visited that city 3 times, but I agreed to go because I thought it would be a good experience for her and I wanted to get to know her better. However, shortly after arrival I realised I probably shouldn't have agreed to do so. She basically treated me like a tour guide and got annoyed when I couldn't answer all of her questions. She was impatient and didn't really consider what I wanted to do. She said that the trip should focus on her needs because I had been before and she hadn't. I told her how I felt and she didn't respond, so things stayed tense. I really regretted spending 150 euros on that trip. When we got back home we naturally wanted some space and didn't really talk. I was kind of waiting for her to say thanks as I had organised the whole trip, but she didn't. She went home for the Easter holidays and I was hoping things would be better when she came back. However, she left without paying the rent and this caused problems with the landlord. I offered to pay her share out of my own money until she could pay me back, but told her that it shouldn't be my responsibility. She responded rudely, so I took back my offer.
Things were still tense when she came back. It didn't help when she just left the rent on the table as if I was some kind of cash deposit service, even after I had told her to sort it out herself. She brought back loads of food from England and didn't think to offer anything to me. Also, she hadn't been cleaning and she had been meeting my friends without inviting me and it seemed like she was trying to rub that in my face. Eventually I got so angry that we all met up to talk about it and all my feelings came out impolitely. I know that I was at fault because I agreed to do things for her that I didn't really want to and let my feelings build up until I was so angry that I couldn't control myself. I accepted my faults, apologised and agreed to be more open about my feelings so that it wouldn't happen again. She didn't accept any of her faults, essentially said that I didn't deserve gratitude because her parents had organised everything (using my advice) and still didn't say thank you. I said that I was unhappy that she was meeting my friends without me, but she seemed to work her way around it. She invited me out as she was halfway out the door or waited until after I'd eaten to invite me out for a meal. I guess they texted her and expected her to pass the message on, but I don't think they realised the situation.
We made a cleaning rota and I was expecting things to get better, but this only lasted a few weeks. She'd talk to me about her day, but never ask about mine, even after I'd been away on trips, so I assumed she wanted to undermine me by showing me how happy and carefree she was without my friendship. After that I just couldn't be bothered anymore and tried to keep things to a simple 'hi and bye', which she apparently complained to my friends about. I don't see anything wrong with not wanting to talk to somebody you don't like. I don't pretend to like somebody just to keep the peace and benefit personally, but I'm afraid I can't say the same for her.
In the end I went away for a trip without saying goodbye and apparently she couldn't understand why. When I came back after she'd left, I thought this could be her chance to redeem things by leaving the flat in a nice condition and maybe writing a thank you note, but no. She had left the bins overflowing and had ripped up the cleaning rota. She had also put my post in my room, which made me feel extremely uncomfortable because obviously she had let herself into my room (we didn't have locks) without my permission. I wouldn't have a problem with a friend doing this, but we were far from friends. I met up with my friends to discuss what had happened and it turned out that she had been spreading false rumours about me to them and about them to me, I guess in an attempt to push us apart. What a way to say thanks for everything I had done! I can't understand how she thinks its ok to come into someone else's flat and behave in this way. I just wish she could see what things would have been like if I hadn't replied to her email or helped her. She would have had to find her own flat, probably taken the more expensive travel route and wouldn't have met her friends.
Her parents came to visit a few times and did a lot of things for her, at which point I realised that she probably didn't appreciate what I had done for her perhaps because having other people do things for her was all she'd ever known. That's not really her fault, but I think she needs to make a few changes if she wants to get along with people. Perhaps she will be in a similar situation in the future and they will realise what I did for her. I know I haven't always fully appreciated what someone has done for me until I've done the same for someone else.
This experienced helped me to realise that I over-think things, I'm really sensitive and I over-analyse the words and actions of others, which often leads me to jump to inaccurate conclusions. This combination is recipe for disaster. Therefore, I have made the decision to make changes in my life to prevent this kind of disaster from happening again. I will no longer agree to do things that I don't want to. If someone upsets me I will talk to them about it. I will focus on the present, not the past or the possibilities of the future. I won't let people's actions or words get to me, and instead I will show them that their judgements are wrong. However, clearly not everyone is at the stage to accept that they have faults like everybody else. Life will keep on challenging you until you accept and learn to deal with your faults! I resent having her as a flatmate and I wish I had saved the room for a native speaker instead, but I thank her for allowing me to learn some important lessons in life and become a better and stronger person.So my answer to your question is that I think living with someone you spend a lot of time socialising with outside of the house puts too much pressure on the friendship (both at and away from uni) and I don't recommend it.
Living with locals is the easiest way to get daily language practice and to meet other locals (when their friends come round etc). You'd have to be mad to pass that up, and by living with another English person there's a big chance that your social circle will also be English-speaking.
The year abroad goes by really fast, and you don't want to be one of the people going back home wishing that they had improved their language skills more.
I'd talk to your friend and be honest with her about your concerns - chances are she probably feels the same way! Could you maybe compromise, and look for a big WG (flatshare) where you could both move in with 2 or 3 other Germans?
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