03 April, 2015

(New) Home Sweet Home!

The day has finally arrived: I've moved into my Wohnheim (dorm) in Hildesheim! Maxim and I drove up to Hildesheim on Tuesday amid a bizarre mix of hurricane-type weather and sunshine. After several hours in the car we moved me into my new room, and for the past few days we've been getting settled in (Maxim will be staying with me roughly until the semester starts) and beginning to explore the city. I'll write another post soon about my impressions of Hildesheim, but for now, onto the dorm. 

To save time, effort, money and stress, I very boldly, or maybe recklessly, accepted a room in a dorm without visiting it first, so I was apprehensive before moving in. My first impression didn't help the apprehension much: the room is SMALL! After getting used to the small size, though, I'm beginning to appreciate the plentiful storage, especially after cramming my stuff into such a tight space while I was sharing a room with Maxim at his parents' house for the past few months.

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of the space. Although the units in this dorm are advertised as apartments, it is really just a small room with an attached bathroom. I took the first picture standing in front of the window, next to the foot of the bed (seeing subsequent pictures should help you visualize what I mean). The door you see in the background with the coats hanging on it is the front door, which opens out into the hallway.


As you can see in the above picture, I have a tall wardrobe for clothing, which has shelves and a rack inside for hanging things, as well as shelves and drawers to the left for other things. The cabinet on the bottom directly to the left of the wardrobe could even fit a mini-fridge if I decide to rent or buy one, which is a nice option to have.

The next one is taken from the opposite direction:


This angle doesn't make it look so small, since this is where most of the space is. The part that really makes it feel small is the space between the wardrobe and the bathroom door, which is where I stood to take this picture (bathroom door to my left, wardrobe to my right). It's so narrow that there's barely enough space to open the bathroom door all the way.

And finally you get a glimpse of my bathroom. This is one of the main reasons I decided to take the room blindly without visiting first; when I heard it had its own bathroom I was sold. As far as I know, most German dorm rooms have private bathrooms (unlike American dorms, which typically have shared bathrooms on each floor with public restroom-type stalls and rows of sinks and showers). If I were living in a regular German student apartment, which I will discuss later, I would most likely not have my own bathroom.


As you can see, it's small but has what I need.... Well, almost. One of my main criticisms, other than the small size, is how little storage space there was in the bathroom when I moved in. I expected some type of shelf or at the very least a larger area around the sink to set stuff, but no such luck. Maxim and I remedied that with an emergency run to IKEA, where I purchased the shower curtain, trash can, toilet brush, a basket to hold stuff in the shower, a cabinet to store my bathroom supplies (you can't see it here but it's opposite the toilet next to the door) and suction-cup hooks to hang the shower curtain and my hand towel. We also used the last remaining suction cup to hold the cabinet to the wall, since we had trouble getting it to stand upright on the slightly sloped floor in the corner.

All of the things I bought are things that I most likely would not have had to worry about if I lived in the "regular" student apartment that I mentioned earlier. Unlike in the United States, in Germany dorms are the exception rather than the rule and are not run by the universities. Most students live in a Wohngemeinschaft, or WG. A WG consists of a number of bedrooms (three is the most common I've seen, but it can be anywhere from two to six) with a shared kitchen and bathroom. The advantage to living in a WG as opposed to a dorm is that there are typically already things like trash cans, toilet brushes and storage cabinets in the bathroom and a full assortment of utensils and dishes in the kitchen. Rather than starting from scratch in a new space like I am, students who move into WGs usually join an established "household" with many details already taken care of.

It's these details that I'm dealing with now. Even though this dorm was advertised as having fully equipped kitchens for every floor, it seems like, in addition to the bathroom supplies I bought, I will have to procure many kitchen necessities myself. The kitchen on my floor, which I share with five other apartments, has a very basic amount of supplies. There are a few plates, a few bowls, a few cups and mugs, a few sets of utensils, a cutting board and some pots and pans. That's about it. As soon as the dishwasher is even halfway full, finding clean dishes to eat from is a struggle. I'm not even sure if what I've seen is supposed to be for general use or if I've accidentally been using someone else's personal dishes. And in terms of anything more specialized, like a sharp knife, a potato masher or a can opener, good luck! You certainly won't find it here.

This lack of kitchen supplies along with the small room size and the lack of storage in the bathroom are my three beefs with this place so far. I hope those are the only beefs I discover, because this room has a lot of positive things going for it. The dorm is quite new (if not the building than everything inside of it), which means everything in the room is also new, functional and clean. I have a large, bright window, the heat works quietly, the bed is relatively comfortable, the water temperature in the bathroom is responsive, and the mirrors and shower head are positioned well for a tall person. These are things that cannot be taken for granted, and when one of these areas is lacking or broken, it can make life very frustrating. At least I know one set of frustrations I won't have to deal with.

And best of all: I FINALLY have my own space! I've been wanting space of my own that truly feels like mine ever since I graduated from Mount Holyoke, and other than sharing the kitchen, this is as close to that dream as I've come yet. I hope it ends up being as rewarding as I've hoped. For now, I will be spending the next week or so settling in and hoping that the university hurries up and sends me my paperwork so I can finally call myself a student and register for my classes. (Yeah, that still hasn't happened. I'm trying not to freak out too much.) Wish me luck!

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