When I was 18 years old and fresh out of freshman year of college, I did the bravest thing of my life. I didn’t return to my hometown in Northern California during summer and instead chose to stay in Los Angeles, near my college. There were numerous reasons for doing so, including more opportunities for me, better weather, being able to work on campus, and more. However, there were also many disadvantages that almost deterred me. I would have to pay my own rent and utilities, find a place to live, I wouldn’t have my hometown friends near me, and I didn’t know how to cook among other things. But I didn’t let those deter me because I was determined to get my first internship and kick start my professional experience.
There were several things I needed to get in order before fully committing to this decision. What follows is my advice for any students who are or will be in the same situation I was in.
Get a roof over your head
First things first, you need to secure both a place to live and a source of income. Depending on the situation, this could be equally important, or one can take precedence. For me, I already had 2 on-campus jobs that I had during the school year that I could just continue working at during summer. Even though they were practically minimum wage, I had a lot more time on my hands since I didn’t have to worry about school. One of my jobs was at the library, which was open during weekends, so I even got to take advantage of those! That left a place to live. Arguably, this was one of the more difficult processes. My school had a Facebook group dedicated for students who were looking to sublet their room. I watched that page like a hawk, getting notifications on my phone every time someone posted. Eventually, I found a place close to school and within my price range. Granted, I knew none of the other people in the 4-person apartment, but thankfully they were nice people and we turned out to be good friends. Don’t let strangers scare you away. Just do your research before hand.
Budget, budget, and budget
Once you have a roof over your head, start setting up a budget. If this is your first time living independently like me, than you’ll need to do some homework. I made a mock work schedule of how much time I could realistically devote to working each week and calculated each of my different wages. Then I added up how much rent would be and an estimate of utilities, groceries, and other household necessities. I found that I had enough to still have a profit after paying my rent so I had some savings during summer.
Branch out and make friends
When moving to a new place, it’s always difficult to find a new social group. Remember when you moved to college for the first time? It’s kind of like that. You may be lucky enough to know people already who are local, or also staying. That’s great! Reach out to them. This is the time to explore a new city, try new restaurants, and meet new people. Befriend your coworkers. If all else fails, join groups like Meetup or go to Eventbrite to find events near you where you can meet other people with your same hobbies and interests. And don’t forget to use these social situations to continuously grow your professional network!
Those are the main pieces of advice I would offer a young professional such as yourself who is thinking about living somewhere other than home for the first time in their lives. Remember, don’t be afraid to take a new step in your life. Stepping out of your comfort zone will only strengthen you and open up new opportunities. These are your prime years, go for it!