Everyone knows that moving to a new city is nothing less than stressful, but the only word I can think of to describe moving to another continent is “overwhelming.” There were so many things that I needed to figure out. Where would I live? How would I get around? What bank should I choose? It was all up in the air, and so difficult to plan without being able to personally check it all out. I now consider myself something of an expert on the topic, so I decided to compile a list of some of the things that I wish I had known before I moved to Durham:
For the most part, I looked up housing on the Incoming Student Website (ISW), which is a secured website that incoming students get access to. The site had a pretty extensive list of housing options, with ratings and descriptions. It was important to me to get an apartment where a lot of other MMS students lived, but you can’t tell much about that from the ISW because it doesn’t have any MMS specific statistics. This is understandable since it’s probably something that changes from year-to-year. But this year, the majority of my classmates live in just a few places: The Lofts, The Belmont, Trinity Commons, and West Village. Personally, since I wasn’t going to have a car, it was really important to me to live close enough to campus to walk if necessary. That’s one of the things that led me to The Belmont (also I was only 20, and both Trinity Commons and The Lofts require their residents to be 21).
In terms of distance, almost all the apartments I listed above are walking distance to school, they’re not even long walks. In fact, The Belmont is the farthest, and it’s actually a really nice walk, when the weather is cooperating. West Village is very close to downtown, but not at all convenient for getting to school unless you have a car or want to take the bus. The Bull City Connector is a good option.
Transport to School
In terms of getting to school, if you don’t plan to drive there, you can either take the LaSalle Loop, or you can walk. The LaSalle Loop is a bus that goes all around campus. It comes approximately every half an hour, and there is an app called TransLoc Transit Visualization, which you can download on your phone to track the bus in real time. The bus is most convenient to The Belmont because it stops almost right outside the gate. That being said, it’s not inconvenient to The Lofts, Trinity Commons or Erwin Terraces, you just have to walk a bit in the opposite direction of Fuqua to get to the bus stop, so it’s probably faster to just walk all the way to school.
Pretty much all of the available housing in Durham is unfurnished, so as an international student without a car, I was very worried about how I’d go about furnishing my apartment. My roommate and I bought most of our stuff from Walmart, and are really happy with it. We did need a car for a few days to transport things around, and we had to assemble all of our furniture ourselves. The other alternative that a lot of MMSers used this year was a furniture rental place called CORT. It is more expensive than Walmart, but you don’t need to worry about transporting or setting up your furniture, or even getting rid of it at the end of the year. Also, from what I’ve seen of the CORT furniture, it’s all really nice. When it came to furnishing our apartment, I think the best thing that my roommate and I did was to get in touch with some of the MMS students from last year. We bought all of their random household supplies (brooms, shower curtains, dishes, cutlery, etc.). The items had all only been used for a year anyway, and it made moving just that much easier.
Safety is a big concern when you’re choosing a place to live in Durham. It’s not an unsafe city, but safety is not something you can take lightly when selecting an apartment here. Of course, how safe the place needs to be depends on you. My advice would just be to do a little research into the neighborhood. Some classmates had to move to a different apartment after a couple of weeks, either to be closer to Fuqua, or because they didn’t like the original place that they had chosen. Moving twice is not ideal, and frankly, the pace of the program just isn’t conducive to elaborate moving plans.
There are two main banks in Durham: Bank of America and Wells Fargo. I chose Wells Fargo because it has a branch in the Duke medical center, which you can get to easily via the LaSalle Loop. Also, they have an ATM in the Fox Center at Fuqua, and the convenience charge for someone from any other bank is $3!
Figuring out Durham and Duke isn’t all that difficult if you have the right information. It is important to figure things out by the first couple of weeks of class though, because the program is intense, and the last thing you want to worry about is moving and furniture while you’re getting your bearings in the program. If you can, arrive in Durham a week or two before the MMS program starts, so that you’ll be completely settled by the time classes begin.