When Cultures Coalesce: A Snapshot of Life in the Global Institute’s Living-Learning Community
It’s easy to think that a dorm is just a place to sleep, especially with all the events and classes going on outside residence halls, but dorms and apartments are also about building a community with students from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds through your shared commitment to Christ.
Encompass, one of our campus apartment buildings at Grace, takes this a step further. As a Living-Learning community, Encompass is home to international, exchange, and traditional students who share a passion: learning about cultures. Each month, an apartment chooses one culture to teach others about.
“When we go to classes, that’s one part of our lives. In our hall or apartment, that’s another piece of our lives,” said Dr. Lindsey Richter, director for the Institute of Global Studies. “The Learning-Living Community (LLC) model brings those things together to integrate academic learning with the social and fun side of college.”
Three Encompass residents share their experiences in the Living-Learning Community.
While French Education student Zoe Marsh was studying abroad in France last spring, Richter reached out to see if she would be interested in being the RA for Encompass. Since accepting the role and returning to campus, Marsh has found that cross-cultural learning did not end when she left France.
In the fall, Marsh lived with an exchange student from South Korea, Hayeon Lee. The experience opened Marsh’s eyes to differences between their cultures, even small things like Lee not sleeping with a pillow.
“I learned so much about myself and American culture and how different we are,” Marsh said. “These little things opened my eyes to other parts of the world.”
Marsh also found that her own experiences studying abroad helped her support Lee in a unique way.
“There were times when I explained my experience in France, and she looked so relieved, like she knew I understood how she felt,” Marsh said. “This distance of being away from my family was hard, and I knew how difficult that was for her.”
Marsh has also enjoyed the monthly apartment events and how she has been able to learn about new cultures. She mentioned when one apartment made four dishes, each from a different country. “I’ve learned that our senses are tied with experiences, so we can experience a culture more fully when we taste food from them,” Marsh said. “It’s more than just learning. Experiencing it makes it stick.”
Overall, Marsh has enjoyed experiencing cultures outside of her own. “There is so much more to the world than just American culture,” she said. “Learning about those differences is really important and valuable.”
Encompass also houses many exchange students. This allows students far from home to enjoy apartment-style living where they can cook meals they are familiar with, bond with multiple roommates, and experience a dorm setting.
Shinae Kim, from South Korea, is an exchange student who lives in Encompass. She studies Korean Law and Urban Environmental Engineering.
Kim has enjoyed seeing the differences in dorms in America. In South Korea, she switches rooms every semester, so students typically don’t decorate their rooms, and they aren’t allowed to change the set up of furniture like the desks and bed.
“After I came to the U.S., I was really surprised that we can decorate and change our room in our own way,” Kim said. “I love this dormitory culture.”
When Kim first came to campus, she found it difficult to adjust to life without a car. Back home, she could walk to most places she wanted to go to. She found that her new friends in Encompass helped her adjust to her new surroundings.
They shared their stories, took her to church and to the store, and explained parts of the culture that are new to her, like tipping at restaurants. They have also invited her to try new experiences, like going to zumba classes on campus.
“Encompass friends helped with my transition to the U.S. culture,” Kim said. “I think God prepared good friends for me so that I could adjust well!”
Business administration student Mahima Daliya is an international from India. Like the other Encompass residents, Daliya has enjoyed learning about other cultures. “It’s so beautiful how we get to know each other and learn from each other in different ways,” she said.
Like Marsh, she sees how the monthly events have helped maintain a sense of community in apartment living. When it was her apartment’s turn to host an event, Daliya took the opportunity to share her Indian culture. She decided to make an Indian dessert and talked about how and when it is prepared. She also talked about how life at home is different from life in America. “I loved how everyone came and heard my story and enjoyed the dessert I had made.”
Overall, Daliya has appreciated how Encompass has encouraged community with her neighbors and how she has been able to learn about different cultures. “My favorite thing I’ve experienced so far through the Encompass events is the beautiful feeling of how it brings us together and how much we can learn from it,” she said.
The Encompass residents are afforded additional opportunities to immerse themselves in new cultures off campus as well, including their recent trip to Chicago, where they visited Chinatown and watched live jousting at Medieval Times.
Encompass is one of many residence halls on campus. Read more about the Encompass Learning-Living Community and learn about the other dorms.