UNSW Housing Options: The Kensington Colleges vs the apartments. A students perspective

Marion Finlay Associate Director


August 31, 2017

It is always an extremely hard decision to decide where you want to live when you are studying abroad. Even though you might want the independence of an apartment and the ability to cook for yourself, often this will mean that you will be sacrificing the vibrant social culture that living in dorm style accommodation can provide.


It is hard for us staff to truly explain too prospective students what it is like to live in an Australian college (personally it's been 15 + years since I lived in one myself). So we are thrilled that a past student, Eli Etzioni, took the time to write to you, our future students. Eli has written a letter to explain just what his semester was like living at the Kensington Colleges at UNSW and why you should think about the culture of your housing options and not just the amenities that are provided. 


Thank you Eli for sharing your personal experience with us all.


Eli Etzioni

What the Kensington Colleges will do to you if you let them

I spent my first two years of university in residence halls. In Australia, I wanted to be in an apartment. I wanted to cook for myself. I wanted to live on my own schedule. I wanted to make every moment of my semester abroad count, and I knew that I needed my independence to do that. I was done with dorm life, or so I thought. You might be able to imagine my frustration when I got placed in Baxter College, which was dead last on my preferences.


What I didn’t know then was that living in Baxter College was going to be the single best thing to happen to my study abroad experience. No one asked me to write anything about my semester.  I realize that my own experiences are all that I can draw from, and they are limited. But, I want to try to explain how and why living in Baxter led to all my best moments and memories, and why living in any of the Kensington Colleges seems to almost guarantee a great semester.


It is all about the people you meet. If you have some idea of what you want to get out of your abroad experience, the best thing that you can do when you go abroad is meet other people that want to do what you want to do. I came to Australia eager to spend my semester surfing myself silly. When I rocked up to my room in Baxter, I saw a pile of surfboards outside the room across the hall. Other surfers? On my floor? Maybe Baxter College wouldn’t be so bad after all.


My hall-mate Alex came over from San Francisco and quickly connected with a posse of skaters in the dorm. People looking to play sports got involved in Baxter’s intramurals. People who wanted to go out drinking found mates to go out with. And the study abroad students who were keen to travel (pretty much everyone) each found themselves with more equally keen potential travel partners than they knew what to do with. Meeting like minded people felt so, so easy. Baxter enabled each study abroad student to find others with which to do what he or she came to Australia to do.


Even more important that meeting other study-abroad- ers is to have the chance to connect with the people who know your home for the semester better than you ever will: the Australians themselves. In Baxter, I was surrounded by Australians that were so inclusive and wholehearted that it blew my mind. I got to go for spontaneous swims at secret spots, spontaneous outings to cheap and delicious nearby food joints, and countless surfs. During our road trip over mid- semester holidays, we got to crash with fellow Baxterians that were home for the week, and were kind enough to show us around their hometowns. I am so incredibly grateful to each and every one of the Australian Baxterians that gave me a place to stay, introduced me to family, took me for a surf, invited me to do stuff with them, gave me travel advice, or even did something as simple as teach me a choice bit of Ozzie slang.


They knew that my presence in their lives was only temporary, but they made time and space for me regardless. They showed me their Australia in a way that I never thought I could experience it, and they gave me my semester. I feel deeply indebted to the Baxter surfers, my fellow Floor Five residents, and to many other individuals in Baxter for treating me like one of their own.


I want to urge all study abroad students who have the chance to live in the Kensington Colleges to seize the opportunity; judging from my experience and the experience of my peers, there seems to be almost no way you can end up regretting it.


- From Eli