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Student-Run Micro-Community Living at PH Apartments

Pres House offers seven purposeful living programs in the PH Apartments. Fifty-five percent of residents participate in one of the programs. Residents in each of these programs receive a rent scholarship and access to specialized programming to enhance their living experience and support their personal growth. Most of the programs are created and coordinated by Pres House staff, but one program is designed and run entirely by residents. Housemates propose a theme for the year with a topic, cause, or community goal in mind and meet monthly to work on their theme of choice. Throughout the year, Micro-Communities also host building-wide events to engage the apartment community in their projects. Residents Suyash, Thomas, Nikhil, and Damien share some program highlights from last year as they enter into their second year as a Micro-Community this year.

What is a favorite memory, topic, or experience from last year?

Suyash: “One of our favorite memories is the Pres House-wide dinner we organized in Lower Hall. Each of us prepared dishes representing our respective countries that we shared with the entire Pres House community. We cooked in the basement kitchen together, which added to the fun of the event. To foster a sense of unity, we turned the event into a potluck, encouraging residents from other apartments to bring their favorite dishes and share it with the rest of the apartment. It was especially lively with the Mario Kart games residents were playing in the corner. This event holds a special place in our hearts because it brought us together, facilitating engaging conversations. We shared laughter and new friendships. Being able to host such an event and witness the joy it brought to everyone was truly gratifying, making it a cherished memory for us all.”

What have you learned from your community and the PH community you have served? How has participating in the community helped you grow?

Thomas: “This past year and a half, our micro-community has embarked on a transformative journey rooted in the exploration of our ethnic and cultural backgrounds through cuisine and traditions, uniting us as a second family within Pres House Apartments. Our theme let us delve deep into our personal stories, struggles, and memories, fostering individuality and expression among our members. More importantly, this project aimed to expand beyond our micro-community, inviting the broader Pres House Apartments community to join us in our family reunions, where we showcase and share the traditions and meals we’ve embraced from one another and invite others to do the same. 

By doing all this, we inspired a larger sense of community and connection, bridging the familial gap that develops as we students embark on our academic journeys that can sometimes leave us stressed and alienated. Through all of this, we have learned what it means to be “home” for our fellow students: a nurturing and supportive environment where we can find belonging and understanding. We have learned that formed families are built on love, trust, support, and shared experiences, resembling the dynamics and bonds found in traditional families. We recognize that this understanding will impact our future relationships and help us expand family traditions beyond what our nuclear families have passed down through generations, ultimately contributing to our personal growth and our ability to create inclusive, nurturing communities beyond the walls of the Pres House.”

What are your hopes for this year?

Nikhil: “Our main hope for this year is to create a sense of comfort and belonging within our apartment and the rest of Pres House. As many of us are far away from our respective homes, we recognize the importance in fostering an inclusive environment. With a focus on embracing family and culture, we hope to celebrate traditions like Diwali, harvest season, movie night, karaoke, and more. We aim to not only celebrate, but also educate and enlighten others about the significance behind them. We also want to enable other residents of Pres House to participate. 

For example, we are planning to have a joint celebration of Hanukkah with another group whose goal is to use food to bring people together. This will allow them to express their culture while allowing us to gain insight and appreciation for it. Throughout this year, we look forward to enriching our community with diverse traditions that unite us and that we could carry with us wherever we may be.” 

What has the Micro-Community program space done for you?

Damien: “The Micro-Community program has proven rewarding for me in many ways. Our theme this year centers around bringing our at-home experiences with our families to our micro-community at Pres House. My family likes to wind down by watching movies and TV at night. I’ve found myself to be particularly busy this year, so scheduling time with my micro-community to relax and wind down how I know best has provided me with a much-needed break. In a time where many of us are seeing less and less of our family and starting to live on our own, holding onto those traditions we hold dear is so important. We’re able to create an environment for ourselves that is both nostalgic and comforting.
Last year, our theme centered around the cuisines of our cultures and families. This provided us an opportunity to share our background and to an extent our cooking skills with our micro-community. Being that we all come from different environments, this was a wonderful opportunity to try new foods, learn more about ourselves, and gain more knowledge of different cultures. This has provided me with an invaluable understanding of the values and traditions of my friends, deepening our connection with one another.”

What are your hopes for programs like this in the future at Pres House?

Damien: “I hope the future micro-communities enjoy their time as much as we did! It’s a perfect opportunity to get closer with your friends and the rest of Pres House. I hope they take it as an opportunity to connect, both with the program members and the rest of Pres House. I hope that programs that are similar (or even dissimilar) do some collaboration – enrich the Pres House community, meet new people, and share with them. The Micro-Community program is for learning and growing, and I truly hope future groups, with the fantastic support of Pres House staff, learn and grow from their micro-community experiences the way we have.”

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