Stories of Young Urbanists: Meet Kristen Zupancic

23.09.2020, Regina Schröter

Kristen Zupancic grew up in Canada, just outside of Toronto. After graduating from Media Communications, she developed a niche interest in coliving, a community-driven shared living model. To pursue her career and dreams, she moved to Amsterdam in 2018 and is now working as Trend & Innovation Analyst at The Class of 2020. # WHAT COLIVING IS ALL ABOUT “Although the term has multiple variations, I define ‘coliving’ as a shared living concept offered as a service to accommodate a group of people by a for-profit company. Coliving spaces often feature compact single or shared bedrooms, multi-purpose communal spaces and have a strong emphasis on community and connection through facilitated programming. It's part of the co-revolution triggered by modern lifestyle shifts, urban housing issues and the sharing economy. Living, working and learning pathways are no longer linear; this has resulted in new innovative housing models, such as coliving, to better suit the changing needs of global talent. At The Class of 2020, we call this blended living.” #DISCOVERING COLIVING & MOVING TO AMSTERDAM “I always wanted to live in another country. In 2016, I was searching for work abroad positions and programs; I wanted to become a digital nomad. I was fascinated by the flexibility of living and working while travelling to exotic locations and staying in design-led hostels. These beautiful spaces promised to connect people so they could experience the city they live in together. While browsing a travel blog, I came across my first introduction to coliving, with a space called [ROAM in Bali]( I was immediately intrigued. Back then, coliving was quite a new term, with no clear definition and there were not many resources about it. So, I started my own research and posted anything I could find about coliving on [my twitter account]( Meanwhile, I was still living in Toronto and it seemed like the right time to explore this concept in Europe, where co-housing gained popularity in the 1960s. One of the spaces I found interesting was [Ecomama](, a design hostel in Amsterdam that boasted eco-consciousness and had beautiful communal spaces. I was hired as a receptionist there, set up my working holiday visa and a few months later I was packing my bags for Amsterdam.” {{Pic1: Photo by Aridan Mecava}} #EXPLORING AMSTERDAM’S URBAN SCENE “I was super excited and interested to see how the hostel was managed and how people were using and sharing the space. However, the job itself wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I was making beds half the time. When I wasn’t working, I sought out further inspiration elsewhere. I started discovering Amsterdam’s creative urban scene by going to community events such as, [A City Made By People]( and [Creative Mornings]( amongst others, and that’s when the inspiration really kicked in!” #BE AN INTERN, BUT IN THE RIGHT PLACE(S) “After a short stopover in Canada to sort out my working permit, I set up an editorial internship with [Pop-Up City](, an urban regeneration agency based in Amsterdam. I was not fond of being an intern again, I had already done four internships during my studies, but this one was an opportunity to set my foot into the door of the urban scene. During my time at Pop-Up City, I was researching and writing about urban trends and helped with event organisation. Next to it, I was working in an operations role at [Zoku](, a hybrid hotel that had really inspired me when I first moved to Amsterdam. I could have worked anywhere to pay the bills, but I made the decision to work in a place like Zoku, where I got the chance to speak to a lot of residents and could observe how they experience shared living.” {{Pic2: Photo by Aridan Mecava}} #FINDING A DREAM JOB THROUGH TWITTER “I was on the hunt for a full time job that was aligned with my niche interests and values. I asked myself how I could combine my skills and experiences into a career in coliving, which was particularly difficult considering how new the sector was. At the time, there was no such job description that resonated with me. Meanwhile, I was still posting about coliving on Twitter and that’s how I discovered [The Class of 2020](, a think-tank exploring the future of living, working and learning in university cities. I was very excited to see that they had an open position for Event Coordinator. After two rounds of positive interviews, I was so disappointed to find out I did not get the job. Two weeks after the rejection for the position I applied for, they offered me my dream job.” # TOURING SEVEN CITIES AROUND THE GLOBE “With The Class of 2020, I organized an explorative global tour to research trends in coliving, student living and hybrid hospitality. I built networks with industry professionals and hosted events in 7 cities: Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Melbourne, Dubai and New York City. This was so exciting and a very intense, yet empowering learning experience. My passion for the topic is what kept me going through this overwhelming time. I would do it again in a heartbeat!” # CURRENT ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES “After the tour, I got offered a new position as Trend & Innovation Analyst. Now I focus more on research, but I am still involved in events, such as organising the annual conference in Berlin last year. I am leading the development of our [Annual Trend Report]( and a new pillar called The Class Academy, a training program for industry professionals to co-create solutions to operational challenges in shared living models.” {{Pic3: Photo by Aridan Mecava}} # CAREER PATHS INTO COLIVING “Today, there are many career paths in the coliving industry. An obvious one if you come from a hospitality background is working as a community manager. In addition, experts in spatial design, proptech and real estate can also lead to great opportunities as new spaces are constantly being developed. If you are curious about coliving, don’t be shy! Many who are active in the coliving community, such as myself, are living, breathing, walking and talking coliving advocates.” # FUTURE GOALS “I am learning something new every day. A main takeaway from my career path so far is, if/when you find your niche, continue exploring it and don’t be afraid to share it with others. In the future, I dream of co-creating a coliving paradise that puts great value in sustainability, connectivity and creativity. I would like to take all of my knowledge and experiences thus far and apply it to a physical new living concept. I want to spark feelings of inspiration and happiness in people as soon as they enter the space, much like what Amsterdam did for me.”