Albion students share chores and cultures in the global intentional living community

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February 18, 2022

By Jake Weber

Nine students – from seven countries and five continents, with dozens of cultural practices, food preferences, idiosyncrasies and opinions – sharing a home?

This could be the premise of a reality TV show full of conflict. But at Albion College, it’s the Global Intentional Living Community (Global ILC), where residents celebrate their differences as a personal day-to-day experience.

“Choosing your roommates specifically to learn about differences in cultural background and lifestyle is a unique challenge,” says AJ Mattson, 17, housing and operations manager at the Office of Community Living. “What’s beautiful about their designed ILC is that it provides these students with the opportunity to confront and rise to this challenge.”

Brazilian student Marcelle Collares, 23, says the COVID-19 pandemic and her quarantine periods in particular inspired the Global ILC, located in the former president’s guesthouse at Michigan Avenue and Ditzler Way (Hannah street). “After months of isolation, living with other students was the best part of orientation week,” she says. When Community Living invited student proposals for its ILC program, Collares and his eight roommates formed the largest ILC on campus that year.

Despite the intentional goal of celebrating differences, the ILC encountered some difficulties at first. Almost immediately, Collares recalled, tensions erupted over whether residents and guests would wear shoes in the house.

“Our first week together was kind of a mess because we each wanted to do things our own way. We sat in the living room and were like, ‘This has to work out somehow.’ , says Collares. Regular group meetings help solve problems while providing unique lessons in cultural sensitivity (including the importance, in some cultures, of keeping shoes out of living spaces). “I’m proud that we made it work,” Collares adds.

This attitude of respect and compromise continues to help Global ILC members achieve their goal of celebrating diversity (as well as addressing more mundane issues, such as keeping the kitchen clean and respecting quiet hours). Whole House Dinner is prepared by different students each week, with favorite dishes from their families and home countries.

Watchen Roberts, ’24, of Liberia, recalls his tour with Bach Tran, ’23, of Vietnam. “I had never heard the term ‘jambalaya’,” Roberts says, “but when we were randomly paired up as cooking partners, he told me we should, and it became the best dish that everyone loved.”

Collares agrees, although she initially struggled to get through some of the whole house dinner parties. “I kind of learned to like spicy food, because I had to,” she smiles. “It was really good to try different dishes and learn about other cultures that way.”

Albion native Terek Straham, 24, says the mostly informal compare-and-contrast conversations cover everything from childhood games to religious practice.

“One thing that really stuck with me was how different our schools were from each other, and how most people graduated at an early age and how most took a gap year, which that I personally don’t see a lot in Americans,” Straham says. . “I will say that being part of the global ILC meant that I had to be open to trying new things.”

Roberts adds, “We care for each other in a way that we are each other’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and most importantly, family. We share utensils, food and chores. We have rules that we follow and we respect each other.

Indeed, “being different is what keeps us together,” Roberts says. “As long as I am on campus, I intend to live at the global ILC because that is where I call home.”

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