Hunting for a connection with Wellington

Hunting for a connection with Wellington

International student Krishna Chandrasekar looks back on her journey of finding a new place to live in her adopted city of Wellington amid COVID-19 lockdown levels and a packed study schedule.

Sunrise at Mount Victoria lookout

A new home

I was lucky to make it into New Zealand this year as one of the people who squeaked past the border before the COVID-19 restrictions took effect.

Wellington welcomed me with open arms—but of course no handshakes. A week after I arrived, alert level 4 lockdown rules were in place. From an international student’s perspective, the excitement of coming to a new city in a new country, and the itch to know everything about the place had to be tempered through the 15 minute windows of ‘exercise time’ as we all adjusted to ‘staying local’ and the strictly planned weekly grocery market trips. Imagine looking forward to your scheduled weekly grocery trip to get a glimpse of the outside world! Little did I know that looking for a new place to live would be my own personal way of getting to know Wellington better.

Since I had joined the University in mid-March, all of lockdown had been spent playing ‘catch-up’ with my coursework. During alert level 2 though I managed to get out and explore some of Wellington’s scenery. I hiked the Te Ahumairangi hills and then up Mount Victoria which have beautiful views of the harbour and the fresh air and outdoors helped shake off the effects of lockdown. Then the packed schedule of coursework hit hard, making it impossible to go exploring. I was virtually glued to my chair to finish my assignments, including a few all nighters!

On the walkway to Brooklyn Wind Turbine

Looking for accommodation

Mid-year break had begun and my contract at a University hall of residence ended. I moved into temporary accommodation and, putting all thoughts of exploring the city and hiking aside, I got down to the business of looking for a place to live. Within two hours I had a solid strategy for how I was going to crack it:

1. Decide the one thing I’m looking for in a new place and what I can and can’t go without.

2. Organise apartment viewings in the mornings and go to said viewings in afternoons. I termed this the ‘legwork’. That meant I had evenings free to have nice conversations with people at the backpackers accommodation where I was living.

3. In the first week, arrange viewings in places around Kelburn—Wellington Central, Aro Valley, Northland, Brooklyn, Mt Cook, Te Aro, and Thorndon.

Luckily my planning and legwork payed off and I found a place in Te Aro!

Exploring Wellington

What I didn’t expect was the realisation that the legwork was the most enjoyable part of the whole project. I realised I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and fix up viewings for the afternoon, all of which could be covered on foot. I looked forward to walking every nook and cranny of the city both before and after the viewings. A small café tucked away in Holland Street will always be special to me and I discovered that the silence of Thorndon could be a little unnerving. But by the end of the whole apartment hunting experience, I realised I had got to know Wellington a lot more personally, a lot more intimately. This is what I had wanted to do since I had arrived in the city and I would not have done it any other way!

Changes

Change can be funny, but only if we choose to grit our teeth and grin at it. It taught me to think of the smallest move forward. What’s the smallest move forward that I can make with all that I have? And then directing all my efforts into making that happen. And when that happens, chances are you’ll get your chance at doing something that you’ve always wanted to do. And when you get the chance, don’t miss it! Take it. I’m waiting for the trimester to end, for that’s when I’ll get my next chance to get to know the hills better!

Krishna is studying a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

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