I am pulled in from the relentless snow and bitter cold and suddenly sipping warm lemon tea. Enthusiastic smiles greet my shy one as I grow more and more comfortable and then… everything clicks into place. This is it. Jokes fire back and forth about Canada and “Ghostbusters” and cashews and in that rose-colored moment, everything is perfect.
I don’t want to ask too many questions because I don’t want to know their answers. I don’t want to know about contracts or prices or dishwashers because those don’t matter anymore—what matters is the people. Its name was Via Murri. That was the one that got away.
Finding an apartment is a unique and much-feared aspect of the Bologna study program. With only two weeks to find a posto letto (bed place), the hunt turns options into generalizations akin to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Sometimes there’s one that you fall absolutely in love with: the location, the price, the roommates; sometimes it all falls through. It is different every time: someone else fills the spot, too many caparre (security deposits) to pay, the inhabitants need someone to stay for a longer time … Once you have loved and lost, it seems impossible to find a good posto letto ever again. But it happens—whether immediately or on the very last day, everyone finds an apartment, and it usually works out well.
Upon arrival, we are cast off into a sea of competition with only a little handbook, a map, and vague thoughts of what we want. Soon, everyone begins to set their own preferences: price range, location, singola or doppia (single- or double-occupancy room), cleanliness, and number of caparre. However, these expectations all fall beneath the weight of the most important aspect: roommates. The fellow inhabitants of the apartment help determine your experience for the next six months. Fantastic roommates can turn a mud pit into a home, help you practice Italian, meet new people, and integrate more into the culture. Bad roommates can make you feel isolated or unwanted, a huge problem especially when compounded with homesickness. No matter how wonderful the central location or the spacious rooms or the brilliant view, what ultimately decides and what should decide is the people you are going to live with.
For some students, the search is over and they are already signing contracts and buying bedclothes and considering knickknacks to spruce up the room. Some are hopeful, others on hotlists for apartments, and still others growing stressed or tired from the search. My own is not yet over, but it is coming to a close. As much as I was star-struck by Via Murri, I have found other apartments that I know I—given time—can grow to love.