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Today we bring our first post from the growing Student Union team this year. Maria Torstad is an international student, as you'll learn, and she's also our intern! So you'll probably be hearing directly from her soon. Today, she's hit upon a problem I hadn't ever thought about - and finds a great solution!

Hello everybody. I’m Maria, a (soon to be) 22 year old student from Norway. I came to the US, more specifically Washington D.C, in mid-August, and so far so good! Moving to a new city, in a new country on a new continent is a very ambivalent feeling. Excitement, nervousness, expectations and a hint of homesickness are all fighting for your attention. Everything is all new and different, and you feel far out of your comfort zone. However, I should mention that is exactly why I left my tiny little country and came here – and I love it! The people are friendly, the city is big, beautiful and exiting, and the weather is good (probably a more important factor to me than for many of you, considering I come from Bergen, who is also called “the rainy city”).

Empty, but not for much longer!
Empty, but not for much longer!

Here in DC, I’m attending American University's Semester Program, which basically means I will be here for one semester only. I am living about five minutes outside campus, in an off-campus American University apartment building. My roommate is a very good friend of mine, also from Norway, and it was with mixed expectations we unlocked the door at our apartment for the first time. Well, we laughed. The apartment was not bad, but it was small and very empty, only furnished with two (very tall) beds, a desk, an enormous refrigerator and a small, very random couch, named on the inventory form as “the love seat”, so you get the picture. The kitchen was empty: no cutlery, no tableware...nothing. Needless to say, we needed to go shopping.

As a student, especially in America where the tuition is expensive and you’re not allowed to have paid work, you don’t have a lot of money on your hands. Going out to shop for inventory for an apartment that you’re only spending four months in, is therefore not at the top of your “What To Do In D.C.” list. So, we decided to make it as cheap as possible. That was, of course, evident in what we came home with that evening. For example, we bought a mop instead of vacuum cleaner, simply to save money. First of all, the mop is pink; really, really pink. Second, it’s useless. So that was a waste. We also decided to save money on tableware, so we bought it in plastic. And it is green; really, really green. And then we bought matching cutlery. So that is ugly.

So, instead of telling you all the uninteresting details of my condo, I do plan to make a point in this post. In different colleges and universities throughout America, there are so many international students who come to stay short term. And what happens to all the stuff people buy to fill their empty apartments with, when they leave? Why don’t all schools arrange for the students to have a flea market or a swap meet, where the new students can buy the stuff the graduating or leaving students don’t want or need anymore?

It has been brought to my attention that this is actually done at a few schools: namely, Los Angeles Harbor College and Los Angeles City College in LA, Kaplan College Hammond campus in Indiana, Golden West College, Glendale Community College and Pasadena City College in California. Even though the schools have different ways of organizing these events, it’s a good way for the students to buy and sell the stuff they want. I do think this is very good idea. It doesn’t have to be a big and flashy event, just a few tables and stalls on the campus lawn, on the football field or in one of those huge indoor rooms that every college and universities have – depending on the interest among the students.

I guess that today, when most of the action happens on the internet, there is pages for this type of interaction. So, if you are a future student, you should definitely check that in advance, or search for other types of flea markets or swap meets in your future hometown. I know this would have been a good alternative for me and my roommate, so we wouldn’t have to mop our floors with a mop that doesn’t work and eat our dinner from green plastic plates for a whole semester.