Themed housing seen in International House
With the renovation and reopening of a historic residence on North Broadway as the home of International House, the themed housing movement at Transylvania is picking up steam.
“This type of housing integrates the learning experience into the living experience,” said dean of students Mike Vetter. “We’re trying to strengthen the linkage between academics and student life, which broadens the opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.”
International House fulfills that goal by giving students interested in a foreign language, as well as others interested in international issues in general, a place to live and practice their language skills in an out-of-class situation. The concept has evolved from a relatively narrow focus just on the language to include many other aspects of the culture of the country where the language is spoken.
“The heart of the International House is supporting the three main spoken languages we have at Transylvania—Spanish, French, and German—but when there is room, we want to encourage students who have taken some language courses and have other international interests, such as anthropology or business, to also live there,” said Spanish professor Danae Orlins, faculty adviser for the house.
Grace Saulsbury, a senior Spanish and anthropology double major, feels the social atmosphere at International House is conducive to language learning, especially during the frequent events hosted by residents. A conversation hour is held every week in which students, faculty, and staff are invited to take part, and other special events like Octoberfest and an international dessert night combine language and culture.
“We use the foreign language exclusively during these events, and try to let people come and practice the language and learn about the country in a more casual, everyday setting,” Saulsbury said.
Saulsbury also appreciates the renovation and rebuilding that created an International House with modern amenities, including new fixtures in the kitchens and bathrooms for each of the four apartments, while preserving many original features.
“I love that they kept much of the old character of the house,” Saulsbury said. “In one of our rooms there’s an original mantle decorated with colored tiles that’s gorgeous. It has silhouettes of a little boy and girl. My roommate and I love living here. We think it’s the best place on campus.”
Another themed residence facility is CRU House, located in a restored house on Upper Street that provides an alternative living opportunity focusing on spiritual development. Future themed housing, said Vetter, may feature environmental awareness and wellness.