Coordinator Becca Bedell asked the 2019-20 Micro-Communities to reflect on their excellent year in this highly in-demand program. Micro-Communities earn rent scholarships to learn and discuss, attend and host events around a topic they propose. Groups meet monthly, and must engage the wider Pres House community in at least one of their activities. This year, four Micro-Communities explored the topics of Asian Dance, Christian Living, Cultural Acceptance, and Holistic Wellness.
Pres House: What was your most successful event or activity this year?
Cultural Acceptance: Our most successful event this year was Chinese New Year. We had our biggest turnout and everything ran smoothly; we even had just the right amount of food for everyone! Our games and food were an engaging way to bring people together to learn about CNY, and many stayed longer to talk and mingle.
Christian Living: When we distributed food to the homeless on November 10, it was so encouraging to see how many other residents came out to help. Some people even came out with extra food, toothbrushes, scarves, socks, gloves, and extra T-shirts. We were also happily surprised by how much of an impact our actions had on individuals receiving the bags, and it was heartwarming to see their reactions.
Asian Dance: Our Hmong Dance Workshop. Even though the turnout was not what we would have liked, in our eyes it was successful because it gave us a chance to bond together through learning a unique dance together, and also involve the new people who were able to come.
Holistic Wellness: Our Cookie Decorating party in December had a great turnout, and we were happy to see that so many students were choosing to take a break from finals studying and spend time at our event! There were many smiling faces and you could tell the room was filled with holiday cheer.
PH: What did your group members learn about each other? How did being a Micro-Community help you grow closer?
CA: We got to learn more about each other and our different strengths in planning and organizing events. Additionally, being a micro-community allowed us to spend more time together and bond, something we might not have actively done due to our busy schedules.
CL: With every discussion we had, we got deeper and learned more about one another. These topics were always challenging to think about, but we were able to be vulnerable and share things that we don’t normally share with just anyone. We also learned how everyone had different experiences that influenced their lives of faith, and how these experiences affected their perspective of God as well. Most importantly we were able to simply share life together, and cherish these friendships centered around a shared faith. Ultimately, my roommates were people I knew would always understand me, support me, and love me.
AD: We learned that although we come from varying ethnic backgrounds, we all have an interest in Asian Dance and seeing how different cultures have similar themes and ideas in their dances. The Micro-Community helped us grow closer by exploring events that otherwise we likely wouldn’t have made time for.
HW: Each event we had was learning experience. At our fitness meeting, for example, we found that we had similar issues with diet and physical activity being busy college students, and learned easy exercises and healthy snacks to prep. When we attended a cultural dinner [at Hillel] led by our Jewish roommate, we learned a lot about what being Jewish means as well as some of their customs. The Micro-Community helped us collaborate with each other to conduct events while reflecting on our own holistic health.
Questions for each Micro-Community
PH: [For the Cultural Acceptance Micro-Community] Your group went above & beyond by hosting two building-wide cultural events (Bubble Tea 101 and Chinese New Year), and participating in a third (the Pres House World Fair). What was it like to share aspects of your cultures with the community in this way?
CA: It was great to be able to share our knowledge and experiences with other people and see them actually interested in learning about culture. I am sure we gave people new experiences and information through our events. Sometimes it might be scary to show/educate people on things they may not be familiar with, but our Micro-Community’s teamwork and the outcomes we saw were well worth the time spent on planning and executing these events.
PH: [For the Christian Living Micro-Community] How did your group members deepen or grow in your faith this year? What was it like living in an intentional Christian community this year?
CL: There weren’t many people outside our apartment we would be comfortable sharing our deeper struggles about life and faith with, and that brought us so much closer together. Although on the surface we have similar backgrounds, we discovered our experiences and perspectives differ a lot. Several of our discussions were on “touchy” topics that didn’t get addressed in the churches we grew up in (especially the week we discussed women in the church). Sitting down and asking tough questions challenged us to think about subjects we tend to ignore. There were constant opportunities to think about my own faith in a new light. When I forgot about my priorities, the micro-community was always the place to ground myself.
PH: [For the Asian Dance Micro-Community] Your group took a deep dive into the world of Asian dance performances on campus this year. What were some of the best things you saw and learned by attending those events?
AD: The best thing we saw was just the diversity in Asian Dance at UW, from different cultures but also different contexts of modern versus traditional dance. It was also awesome to see that even with these differences, there were common themes that allowed us to have some familiarity with the dances.
PH: [For the Holistic Wellness Micro-Community] Wellness is such a tricky goal for many college students, given workloads and stress factors – even aside from the pandemic that cut short our year on campus. What are some of your positive takeaways from working to create a “holistic wellness” experience this year?
HW: A positive takeaway is that we all individually developed a healthier lifestyle in all aspects of our lives. Our events and experiences touched on many different aspects of wellness, including social, physical, mental, spiritual/cultural, financial, and environmental. Although it takes time and effort to work on all these aspects of health, is it really important.
Three of the four groups separated during COVID-19, and turned to video chat for their last two meetings. Asian Dance members watched performances on YouTube. The Christian and Cultural Acceptance groups held virtual discussions, just as in-depth as in person, about the issues unfolding around them. The Holistic Wellness Micro-Community remained physically together, and shared some creative tricks to alleviate sameness:
HW: We’re making sure to maintain communication with each other, our friends, and families. We also changed our living space to help meet our needs that cannot be fulfilled: during the day we combine all of our desks in the living room, as if we are at College Library together, and then in the evenings we build a large fort and watch movies together.
Pres House is grateful for the lively events these groups hosted, and the deep reflections they had together, especially given an unusual spring semester. For the 2020-21 year, Pres House Apartments is set to have an unprecedented six Micro-Community groups.