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Living in the USA: A Perspective from Cleveland, Ohio

                                                                                                          - Ivaylo Ivanov,

Case Western Reserve University / Cleveland, OH

When I decided to come and study in the USA, one of my main concerns was where to live. I was admitted to several schools for my MBA degree, which offered me a full or almost full financial aid package. I had a choice between University of Minnesota (Minneapolis/St. Paul), Case Western Reserve University ( Cleveland) and University of Georgia ( Athens, Georgia). After careful research, I chose to come to Cleveland, because the quality and cost of living seemed to best suit me, and because I thought that having established connections with people here, I would find study and looking for a job easier.

I actually met a person from Case in my home country, which helped me know more about everything here and feel more closely affiliated with Case, compared to the other schools. Apart from the study/job search information that I asked him about, he also told me about the place he was living at. This is the place that I live at now – it is called Steiner House and it is a co-op house.

Our house is located very near the Weatherhead School of Management, which is very important, given that winter lasts a long time in Cleveland. In general, 21 people could live in the house, although sometimes we usually do not get all places filled. The remarkable thing about a co-op is that everybody shares in all house tasks, whether it be cleaning, cooking, etc. Everyday we have a person who cooks in the evening for everybody else, and another one who helps clean the kitchen and dining room after dinner (we get dinner at 6:30 pm everyday, and we usually have it together). Cooking seemed like a daunting task for me in the beginning – I thought that it would be very difficult to cook for 21 people, and that it would take chef’s skill to cook in such a way that they actually like it J . But after several tries, when cooking took me about 3-and-a-half hours and some anxiety, everything went smoothly J .

Every week we also have people clean some of the common areas of the house – the bathrooms, hallways, basement, laundry room... It is actually a necessity to do that, since we do need to maintain the house for ourselves, and for other people coming after us. The house was bought by Mr. Steiner (who became the namesake of the house – Steiner House) and given to the students a long time ago, and we would like to bequeath it to the next generation of tenants in a fairly good condition.

Every two weeks, we gather together and discuss some common issues – for example, repairs have to be made regularly, new members introduce themselves, parties are announced… or sometimes people are reminded to wash their dishes J J J . Life of so many people together is varied, and this is what makes it rewarding. We technically “own” the house, us being the students currently living there. At the same time, we have a board of trustees, who come to our meetings and help us with suggestions and advice.

For me, the best thing about living in the house is that it helps (especially international) students in their transition to life in the USA. I have been helped with invaluable advice by more senior students in the house in my studies, work, even life in general. At the same time, our house is a school for the unorthodox – you have to get used to different opinions, and that your own viewpoint may not be best. I myself find this hard to get used to, sometimes! But I am very grateful that in the house I am very seldom alone – in a foreign country, this is most important for me, my friends from home being far away.

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