Lessons from an Intentional Community

This month our past Shnatties have written about the differences of living in an intentional community as opposed to a functional one. On Shnat, a vital part of the experience is about being part of a Kvutsah. This can be a stark contrast to that of University. Both Jess and Tom have moved directly into higher education, and this is their experience of this change in lifestyles.

Jess 

Coming to university I knew the thing I would find the hardest would be the change from living in an intentional community to being thrown in a flat with five random other people who are there because they are studying at my university. Meeting my flatmates for the first time was very odd as my introductory interactions on shnat were mainly with the idea that we would be living together and sharing our lives so the “awkwardness” of first meeting only would last a day. At university, this awkwardness appeared to last for a couple of weeks whilst we all found our footing around each other. The one thing that has been completely the same is that I’m the nagging flatmate who asks people to wash their dishes straight away and not leave them in the sink or leave mess on the counters (I was always that person on shnat). It was hard at first socially as unless I intentionally spent time in the kitchen and living space, I wouldn’t really see my flatmates. The further through the first term we’ve gotten however, we’ve spent more and more times together and three of us are looking at a house next year with another group from another flat. I just think the biggest change is realising that not everyone has the same intentions as- where for me my intention is to make really great friends, someone else’s might be to just cook food and not socialise.

Tom

There are many differences between the intentional community of Shnat and a functional one at University. I think the biggest difference I have noticed by far is the type of relationship/friendship that you form with the people around you. To not be on an ideological gap year/programme where you are trying to invest in others, for the benefit in the long run of changing the world then makes some relationships at University sort of superficial and purposeless. The lack of purpose I feel means that sometimes I feel overwhelmed when I feel like there is no direction in what I am doing, and that it is just done as it is expected of me to socialise at University. When trying to be intentional it’s a I-thou relationship between you and others, so on Shnat missing anyone for a day was actually difficult to deal with Shnat but now I go a week without seeing a flat mate and I won’t bat an eyelid. It’s a feeling that I want to spend time with them, but at the same time I realise that not seeing them doesn’t necessarily impact me as much as on Shnat. Lastly, as people aren’t really choosing where they stay it means that issues in the flat or on campus aren’t solved or solved in the wrong way which can sometimes leave some tension which isn’t ideal in the place you have to spend the next 6 months living. I think post-Shnat it is hard to adapt/have everything live up to the high expectations I have and it is all about re-adjusting and trying to find the balance between purpose and just being able to switch off and relax and realise that coming back from a year abroad into University will take some getting use to, hopefully I can start creating more purpose in the wider community to help give me some direction.