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I Lived with Strangers for 2 Months and Here’s What I Learned

June 1st, 2019. I moved into the Airbnb in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Because of devastating hurricane Michael in October 2018, the rental marketing was a mess. A private room in a single-family home was the only available rental I could find for under $2,000 a month. My friends thought I was kidding when I told them I’d be living with Tommy and Tami, middle-aged Airbnb hosts, for two months. My parents, fearing the worst, begged me to just spend the summer at home. 

However, I’d accepted an internship as a Creative Marketing Intern that I was really excited about. Admittedly, I should’ve researched the cost of living before accepting the position, but I was determined to make the most of the situation.

The first few days were rough to say the least. Tommy and Tami’s two tiny dogs yapped incessantly, their 20-something son – who lived in the garage – had constant questions about what I eat as a vegetarian, and everything they prepared for dinner somehow smelled more potently in my room than it did in the kitchen (being that I’m a vegetarian and that Tommy worked in the meat department of a local grocery, this was not ideal). 

My first day there, I cried for at least an hour, overwhelmed by how uncomfortable (and smelly) the next two months would be. However, I knew that in order to enjoy my summer and get the most out of my internship, I couldn’t focus on the negatives. 

While it was a bit awkward making small talk any time I went into the kitchen, the room was nice enough, the location was great, and most importantly, I felt safe. I didn’t become friends and Tommy and Tami, nor would I describe living with them as ideal; however, I would say that I had a really great summer in Florida. Living with strangers was a very real representation of how important it is to make the most of every situation. Determined to learn as much as possible about the area and from the mentors at my internship, I also learned a lot about myself.

I worked 40 hours a week – to earn enough money to afford the expensive rent – but more importantly, so that I could learn as much as possible from my mentors. I went in early to help set up for events, stayed late if there was still work to do, and offered to work on extra projects over the weekend. I was living in Florida to gain professional experience, so at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter that living with Tommy and Tami was a bit awkward. Really, the awkwardness forced me to get out of the house and engage more fully with my internship and coworkers.

Normally after working from nine to five, I’d be ready to go home and crash. Instead, I either went to the gym or for a walk on the beach. Trying to avoid spending time in the Airbnb forced me to stay more active and helped me interact with the area. 

I made sure to use my weekends productively, too. Not knowing anyone in the area gave me a lot of free time, so I committed one day each weekend to working on myself – editing my resume, designing my personal website, researching jobs, and reflecting on my internship projects. I tried to find a new coffee shop each week to work in; again, to get out of the house and see the area. As a beach bum at heart, I committed the other day of each weekend to exploring a new beach. The beautiful, white-sand beaches made any awkwardness or homesickness completely worthwhile. After a restful, sun-filled day, I was more than ready to tackle anything the next week had in store.

While it might have been a little bit awkward forever everyone, I think we all made the most of the summer. All the rent I paid went towards helping Tami go back to nursing school. Despite some people thinking I was crazy, I honestly feel like if I could live with complete strangers and still enjoy my summer, then I can do anything. 

After this experience, I have much less anxiety about moving to a new city after graduation. It would’ve been so easy to stay in my room all summer and not learn anything about the area, but I would have been miserable. I generally consider myself a homebody, but this summer emphasized how important it is to engage with your surroundings.

So, am I staying you should go live with strangers? Not necessarily, and certainly not at the price I had to pay for it. However, there is something to be said for doing things that make you uncomfortable. Living with strangers is a pretty extreme example, but no matter what kind of situation you’re in, there’s always a positive way to look at it. No matter where life takes you, I encourage you to get out of the house, try new things, and look for the bright side.

Kristin Knight

Wake Forest '20

Currently a senior at Wake Forest University, I'm a Communication major with triple minors in Journalism, Entrepreneurship, and Studio Art. Growing up in California, moving to New Mexico, and ultimately finding my way out to North Carolina has given me an appreciation for seeing new places and working with diverse groups of people. After graduation, I hope to pursue a career in either Marketing or Public Relations. Until then, I'm enjoying all Wake Forest and North Carolina have to offer.
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