Sunday, November 25, 2012

College living, pt IV - co-ops and fraternities

After living up north for a while in a shared apartment, I got a graduate scholarship to study in Nebraska. I had never been to Nebraska before and I couldn't travel there to look for places to live in advance, so I was once again facing the reality that I would have to live in a dorm and share a room with someone. 

My scholarship covered "only" tuition, so I had to organize and pay for the housing myself. I looked at the dorms that were on the main campus and came to the conclusion that I could not afford to live in them. Luckily, the university had an agricultural campus about 4 miles from the main campus and they offered all-girl sorority-style housing that wasn't as costly, in fact it was several thousand dollars cheaper! The trick was that we as a house would work as a team and cook and clean for ourselves. Hence the cost of living was reduced to half of what it would've been on main campus.

Our all-girl house
photo from facebook

I was a bit concerned about this housing option at first, since in my previous experience, American sorority girls can be a bit catty. I later realized that my prejudiced image was due to the fact that I had been living in New England, Nebraska was totally different. Living at the house was such a pleasant surprise; there were a  couple of "you don't know Jesus like I do"-girls that considered themselves uber-Christians, but other than that the house was a friendly place, and the girls living there were a lot of fun. Living in the house seemed to be a tradition to some, a lot of the girls had had big sisters living there and some had followed their moms and grandmothers  footsteps and moved there. 

Hallway at the house, I couldn't find a photo of our room :(

My roommate at the house was B, whom I didn't have any contact with before we moved in, since she hadn't checked her emails/facebook all summer. This was the first time that I got to move in first! Our room was super-tiny, about half the size of the dorm room I had back north and for the first time since elementary school, I had to sleep in a bunk bed :D Since I got there first, I took over the bottom bunk bed. I'm a notorious sleep walker, so sleeping on top would've been a bit risky for me anyways. Despite having about the smallest room there was, we had the corner room, which was nice, since we had two windows.

Formal living room

I slept the first two nights alone in the room, until my roommate B arrived. She was a junior, who had transferred from a community college, and was really into horses and was in the school rodeo team. She was a 100 % country girl, who had grown up on a farm. We got along instantly thanks to our love of horses. The first weekend of school she took me line dancing at the local ballroom and I've loved line dancing ever since! I had a lot fun with roommate B; she took me home to her farm, I met her beautiful horses, we went shopping a lot and to parties. She spent majority of the weekends at home with her horses, so I usually had the room to myself on Saturdays and Sundays, which was fine by me. Despite having very different backgrounds, and a taste for very different kind of men (she liked big, cow dung smelling truckers), she is definitely the favorite girl roomie I've ever had. Such an easy going person and we never had a dull moment in our room!

Formal living room from another angle

Living in the house was fun too, it was such a great social experience. When we first moved in, we had a "New Women's Weekend" where we were told about the history of the house, the traditions, what to expect and got to know each other. Each new girl (a little sister) also got a big sister from the girls that were already living there, who would show us newbies the ropes. My big sister was S and she was such a sweetie. During the little sister/big sister night, she gave me a candle she had made and we lit it together to symbolize our sisterhood. I love cute bonding stuff like that :)

Upstairs fireplace

We were divided into five kitchens (there were five actual kitchens downstairs) and each person cooked for their own kitchen for a  week at a time. So basically we had to cook two or three times per semester for an entire week for 7 girls. We had to make a menu before hand and have it approved by a kitchen officer. It wasn't as hard as it might sound, even I, with very mediocre cooking skills managed it. My girls ate Finnish oven pancakes, oven porridge etc, so they got some Nordic flavor to their meals :D Besides cooking, we were assigned a separate cleaning duty for each week. Basically your duty was for example to clean up one of the bathrooms, a kitchen, a staircase etc. This you had to do everyday, but it only took like 10-20min of our time everyday, so it was not a big deal. Not surprisingly, no one ever really liked the bathroom duty :)

Study room

We had a house meeting every week and every other week we had a formal meeting, to which we dressed up for. At the meetings we went through what had happened at the house and the schedule of next week and we sang our house song. Every week one girl got a prize for making a good meal or doing their cleaning duty well. The house also organized a lot social events, we had nail polish party, panty party (secret santa style, everyone got a designated someone to buy underwear for ha) and celebrated all the birthdays and holidays together. We also had a brother-fraternity, with whom we arraigned parties, like Halloween party, together. We also had a formal dance, which was a lot of fun and the profits went into charity. The house also had sports teams and I played broomball in one of our co-ed teams with the fraternity.

Little man visiting the informal living room downstairs

After my first year there, I decided to move off-campus, since it was even cheaper than living in the house. I admit I got all teary eyed when I left the house, because I loved living with those girls! I loved the community spirit and the fact that you were never alone. The parties were fun and I feel like I got so many new experiences, which I wouldn't have, if I had lived somewhere else. 

For the summer after my first year in Nebraska, I moved into a fraternity house with my then-friend, roommate G. At that point the Triangle fraternity was using the house, nowadays it is used by another fraternity.

The fraternity house 
photo from google

Normally these fraternity buildings house only boys (the brothers), but during the summers they rent out rooms to outsiders. The rent was cheap and my workplace was within five minutes walk, so the location was perfect for me. I was at first planning on living there by myself,  but then G's original roommate bailed out and she asked me to share a room with her. G was a Nebraskan, whom I met through a friendship program for international students. We hung out quite a bit when I was living in Nebraska, but we've since lost touch. We were roommates for the summer and I don't think we could've been roommates for much longer :) We just had a completely different ideas about cleanliness. I once stepped on her peanut buttered knife that was just laying on our room floor, gross and painful... but other than the obvious differences on the perception of the word clean, we got along just fine. G helped me out a lot when I later needed car rides to the hospital etc. And later on, when I moved away from my shared house, she took my place there.

Triangle's sign back in 2009, when the house was still theirs

Stay tuned for the last part: next week I'm moving to a shared house off-campus! :)
Hope everyone is having a great Sunday!

p.s Welcome new readers!


Anonymous said...

I gotta say I love love love your stories about college living in the US (and in Finland too of course)! Thanks so much for sharing!!

Sugar said...

I'm so glad you've liked them! It's been so much fun reminiscing, although it makes me miss college life a bit as well :)