Common members come to us from all over. Finding a place to live in a new country can be very difficult elsewhere, yet at Common, the entire process is simple. We’ll let the members tell you more.
We previously talked about Eric from Rwanda and Alexandra from Canada. This time meet Sarah from Australia and Marie-Loup from France.
Sarah, center, at a fun Local Roots event hosted at Common Albany.
Where were you before Common?
I was in Canberra, the capital of Australia. I am a bit of a politics nerd, and I thought I wanted to be a civil servant. When I realized I wasn’t meant to be a civil servant I went back to working in non-profits, which is something I’d done all the way through my university studies.
How did you find out about Common?
The non-profit I’m working for is in a start-up phase, so I was looking for coworking spaces. In the process of looking at coworking spaces, I realized that communal living was a thing. I then did some research into the different companies. What really attracted me to Common was the focus on community. Knowing that I was not only moving to a new city, but moving to a new country and being the only person working in my workplace, I really wanted something where I could make friends at home. And I did.
How has the community been?
I love it. I think it’s particularly good at Common Albany, ‘cause it’s one of the smaller homes, so it just kinda feels like one big sharehouse. Everyone just congregates in the kitchen/living room area in the evening. It feels like a family, which sounds really corny, but it’s what I needed. Being so far away from my actual family and my friends back home. Being around a bunch of people who have a really broad range of interests, who were also interested in a sense of community kind of binds us together.
What’s it like living in a new country? Any culture shock yet?
It’s been great. I’ve had some really funny moments with Reino, who’s from South Africa. Because South African and Australian English are very similar, there are moments where if we’ve had a missed translation between British English and American English, it’s funny to come together and be like, “Oh, I said this thing and I just got this blank expression in return.” The solidarity and the shared experience of coming to the US connects us.
In Australia, we consume so much American culture, but actually going through the experience and realizing I might have both languages in my head and can translate from British English to American English, while other people with whom I’m communicating might not necessarily be able to, is funny.
People have just been really warm and welcoming, and being able to just do the full range of things from weekly brunches with the same group of people all the way through to going on trips away or exploring museums and those sorts of things. It’s been a really fun way to explore NYC.
Was the process what you expected?
It was actually really easy. I was able to get on a Skype call with the admissions team, and they showed me around the home when I was still in Australia. If I were already in New York, I’d have a physical walk through the home yet I had a couple of different conversations with the admissions team who were able to talk to me about the home. We also discussed the vibe and sense of community in the home and how this home connected with the other homes in Crown Heights. That process was really easy.
I was also able to have a Skype call with Bryan, Common Albany’s House Leader. That was helpful. I could keep my flight and arrive on a Sunday. I just texted Bryan when I landed at JFK and by the time I arrived here at Common Albany, Bryan was waiting out in the front for me. That was a really seamless experience.
You’ve been living here for seven months. What do you love most about it?
The people. There’s just a really wide variety of people here, and I love that. I was heavily involved in the Ted-X community in Canberra, and it offered a similar thing where you don’t necessarily have exactly the same interests but to be in a room of people who’re generally interested in the world around them, you end up finding all of these things about each other and about the world that you couldn’t necessarily predict. So that keeps it fun and exciting and the people are just generally great.
Does anything like this exist in Australia?
Not exactly the same. When I was a university student, there was definitely shared housing, but the thing that’s different with Common and this current trend is that young professionals have a bit more money, so it’s less of that poverty mindset of “okay we just need to scrimp and save and if we can find a way to make this work, let’s do it.” This is a more active choice to say, “How I want to live is to live with other people.” There are the perks of being able to pool our money and have community events or have the cleaner come through once a week, so it’s a really different experience to some of my university shared housing.
Where were you before Common?
I arrived in the US at end of October 2016 and was in Paris, France before that. When I arrived, I lived with a friend, sharing her studio, in Manhattan, while looking for a job. Once I found the job, I looked for a place and found Common. I moved at the end of February 2017!
What’s the best/your favorite part of common?
Difficult to choose between the fact that everything is included and that we can easily move in, and that the homes are brand new and gorgeous!
Nevertheless, I’d say that my favorite part is probably the community. I moved to the US alone and this community, or at least some members, are the family and friends I’m missing here.
What is something you’ve learned (culture-wise)?
I’m not sure if the answer will be relevant, but I would say that whatever your culture, you always need someone else and everyone at Common is happy to have their housemates. At least the members who are here for the community and not just because it’s convenient financially speaking.
And I have the feeling that the idea of being part of a community is really strong here in the US, which is really nice for me because that’s I grew up being part of a strong community too. And we have some pretty amazing members who do so much for the Common values to be achieved!
Did you experience any culture shock?
Not that I remember though there was a lot of confusion once when I used the British English I learned in school and called an eraser a rubber. But it’s not my first time in the US and I’ve studied cultural differences at school.
Any new experiences/new favorite foods?
Mmmmmm, I’m not sure yet about the favorite food 😀
New experience: last weekend when I went to my very first baseball game with some members. That was nice, and I hope this will happen again soon and often, whatever the next “truly American” event is.
And new experience again: clearly, the fact that I live now with suitemates. Before that, I was with my partner, and before that, with my mom and sisters! So even if never alone, it’s still different.
Who did you meet whom you wouldn’t have?
We are all different, or at least I have the feeling to be different from the other members, maybe because I’m not from the US and I’m older. But, here, we are all different, we have different backgrounds, jobs, culture, taste, dreams, expectations, and whatever, but we all have Common in common (ha!) and I think I wouldn’t have met any of my favorite members without this. Especially because I never had roommates and I never thought of having roommates now that I am 30!