Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

Otago University student balances law degree studies with couch surfing to raise money for scholarship

An Otago University student is juggling a law degree while remaining technically homeless as she bounces from flat to flat in Dunedin, raising money for a scholarship fund.

Tiana Frittelli, otherwise known as "The Flat Hopper", is spending the semester sleeping on couches, mattresses on the floor or wherever she can find accommodation at different houses for 16 consecutive weeks.

She is donating the $165 a week she would otherwise be spending on rent and expenses towards a scholarship fund to be awarded to a "good sort" to attend the University of Otago.

The fourth year law and sociology student told the Herald the lack of a permanent abode hasn't had too much of an impact on her studies so far.

"I've really just been enjoying it at the moment, I don't know if it's going to change once uni starts picking up a bit.

"I've chosen a less heavy workload for this semester in preparation. At the moment it's just been really fun, everyone's been super friendly, really welcoming and I've just felt part of each flat every time."

Frittelli said meeting new people and getting amongst the student community in Dunedin were a welcome bonus of her efforts.

The uninitiated may wince at the thought of staying at a series of student flats in Dunedin, but Frittelli has no qualms with the digs offered to her so far.

"They've all been pretty cool... I've been really lucky with conditions as well. Two of the weeks I've had a whole room to myself... this week I'm on a mattress in the lounge, it's working so far."

Couch-surfing means relying on the generosity of her host flat for sustenance.

"Any of the communal stuff I use, and then they help me out for dinner. I'm a pretty easy eater, so that makes it good."

She expects keeping up with her studies may prove to be more of a challenge as the end of the semester and exams loom closer.

"I imagine people will still be easy going. The bonus is that all the accommodation in Dunedin is so close to uni, it's so central, that just to get to the library from any flat I've been offered is walkable, so I can just take myself there when I need to go."

She is yet to line up all 16 flats she will be staying at, but said finding enough generous hosts shouldn't be a problem.

"I'm actually pretty disorganised... it's definitely a last minute operation but I've had so many offers, I've been absolutely blown away with the amount of people who have offered me their flats and every time I see people when I'm out and about they tell me I can come and stay, so there's definitely been lots of offers, but I'm taking it week by week."

Donations towards the scholarship have been coming in through a Givealittle page, in addition to Frittelli's weekly contribution.

"I put in $165 each week. It covers an average rent in Dunedin of $125, plus $30 for food and $10 for power and wifi and that kind of thing.

"People are amazed that my weekly average is $125, all my friends in Wellington and Auckland are paying so much more than that. But in Dunedin we're very lucky down here, the places are a lot more affordable."

She has raised $1500 for the scholarship so far, which she hopes will go towards helping a "good sort" without the financial means attend the university.

"Essentially the whole point of doing it is to have a student-based initiative. We decided to do a scholarship because this is the most effective way to give back to students and welcome another student into the community.

"People might nominate someone they think deserves it. I think it'll have a bit of a criteria of economic hardship, but I think it'll focus on community involvement and good character rather than academics."

- NZ Herald

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