We lived at The Village for 7 years while my husband pursued his Masters and PhD. We arrived with one baby-on-the-way and left with 4 beautiful children. Two of our babies were literally born IN the village (C01 and E2/3).
We chose to live at the village because we were from Canada. We had no reliable way to find an affordable house, we had no vehicle, no friends, no money for a hotel while we “house hunted.” The village seemed like the safest place to put down a deposit and park ourselves until we could “figure things out.” I cried my eyes out when we first arrived. I was 6 months pregnant and we had driven 3 days from SK, Canada with my dad to arrive at our tiny, run-down little apartment. There I was, thousands of miles from our family and friends, pregnant with our first child and wondering what on earth I had got myself into.
As it turned out, The Village wasn’t our “temporary” lodging until we found something better. There was nothing better. We didn’t stay for the apartment. If you have seen them, you’d know that nobody does. We stayed because it was safe. We stayed because it was close to campus. We stayed because it was affordable. But most of all, we stayed because of the community. The set-up of The Village (apartments buildings backing a common, fenced-in playground) along with the community programming there, made it an experience unlike any other. We could celebrate Dewali, Eid, Chinese New Year, Christmas, Holi, and Mardis Gras together. We could send our kids outside to knock on 25 doors until they found somebody to play with. We could borrow a cup of sugar, or a tsp of fenugreek from a neighbour. There were people close by whom we could trust, even if we didn’t know them that well, in an emergency. I could trust any neighbor to watch our toddler while I ran to the office because I locked myself out of my apartment. I could hand my baby to anyone on the playground if I needed to rescue our preschooler from climbing to an uncomfortable height.
I remember reading that grad students have high divorce rates. Our experience at the ND Village has strengthened our marriage. The ND Village has allowed me to become a better mother, as I would watch and learn from those with more experience and ask questions and get advice when needed. The Village has saved my sanity when I felt lonely and desperate and resentful and overwhelmed I could walk out onto the playground and watch my children play and chat with a neighbor and unwind.
For international families, the Village provides something even more: The safety of campus housing, the convenience of proximity when you may not have a vehicle or driver’s license, and the comradery of facing challenges together like finding health insurance, understanding visa limitations, working (or not being able to work), searching for a job, being lonely, learning English.
The Village provides community in a time when our communities are becoming less and less trusting and moving more and more towards some kind of metaphorical online ‘community. Real community cannot be replaced by an occasional group meeting or an online message board. The safety, proximity to campus, affordability and common bond of ‘Grad Student Family’ were aspects of the Village – but being actual neighbours and living as an actual “Village” is what made The Village so special. Because we all know, it takes a village to raise a family – and for us, that was ND Village.
-Eric Klein, Former Resident