Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Narae: My name is Narae, I'm 24 and an international student from Korea. I've been in the United States for a couple of years now and have spent some time living in Africa as well. Because I'm an international student, it means I don't really have a chance to get grants from the government. Luckily I did receive some scholarships from Otis though. Everything else I pay on my own.

Q: How did you find yourself in your current situation?

Narae: Last year in May of 2012, I got a call from my mom sounding pretty frustrated and saying that I might have to return to Korea. When I asked her why she said it was because she couldn't support me financially anymore. At this point, I had just gotten accepted to Otis and I said there was no way I was going back when I had just reached the starting point. I told my mom that I'd take care of myself and beginning July 2012, I began living in my car. I worked at a [dry] cleaner during the summer and when school started I was completely living in my car. At the time I had a Nissan Maxima, which is a four-door car and slept in the back seat. It was completely packed with my stuff and supplies and I was pretty embarrassed. My back got really messed up and I was in pain a lot. During that year I worked during the school year on the weekends and ended up buying a new car. I'm living in a minivan right now which is way better. I can actually lay down!

Q: What are some advantages and disadvantages that you have found?

Narae: I don't have to pay for utilities! My home is portable and since I live in the school parking lot, I'm never late for class! Although I still don't sleep too much thanks to all the homework. The hardest part is lack of privacy. I have to do everything inside my car. I sleep in my car, I change in my car. Whenever people pass by, they can see inside. Regardless, I feel safe, especially at school. The security guards are really understanding and they keep watch during the night.

Question: How do you do typical household chores such as cooking, washing, showering etc?

Narae: For food I keep a lot of microwavable food like cup of noodles, microwavable rice and stuff like that. Sometimes I do go out to eat with friends and sometimes it's just microwavable rice with seaweed and canned tuna. I also have a mini fridge, now that I have my own desk space at the Toy Design Department. I usually put cheese and yogurt in there. It's also nice as I can have cold drinks now. It's really handy.
For showering, I go to LA Fitness now. I pretend to go workout and use the showers. Last year I would ask my section mates if they could let me use their keys and go into the Playa (Otis dorms) gym and use their showers. For washing my clothes I usually go to friend's house to wash my clothes or coin laundry. I also never sleep over at people's house because I would feel bad asking. I don't want to bug people.

Question: How do classmates and teachers react to your living situation?

Narae: At first when I started living in my car, I thought people would judge me. 'Oh little poor girl living in her car,' that kind of thing. And some people do look at me with pity and it kind of hurts my pride. But at the same time, most people think that I'm really strong. I thought it would be hard for people to accept the fact that I'm living in my car.



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