After living in the University’s Luther Haus co-op last year, I can confidently say two things: First, that I loved every minute spent in the co-op and second, I praise the Lord every day that my conservative mother never set foot in that house.

My experience as a member of a co-op was particularly unique to this campus because of my dual affiliation with the co-op and Greek Life. Initially, I joined Luther because I wanted to be near Central Campus and have a low-key living environment with few rules. As a California girl with only one older brother, I had always felt at home in fraternity houses. Therefore, in my pursuit for the perfect housing option I felt pulled toward the Inter Cooperative Council — the body that oversees the maintenance and contract information for each of the University’s 19 co-ops — because of its fun, easygoing environment. With reasonable rules, spacious rooms, low living costs and provided food, there was a lot to like about Luther.

However, these are not the reasons why I really cherished my time at Luther. Each individual co-op boasts a unique personality and a new group of incredible members each year. From the people to the physical home itself, co-ops are something that more people should know about.

From day one I felt like an integral member of Luther Haus. It is outlined in the rules of co-op living that each member has an equal voice in decision-making. This rule is not always important when you are living with a homogeneous group, but for most co-ops the inhabitants are as unique as the psychedelic murals that adorn the walls. As I sat on the porch swing that first August evening as a “Lutherite,” older members swapped stories about how Luther had been the birthplace of the band M-5, had harbored the White Panthers during the civil rights movement and that John Lennon had slept with a student in another Lutherite’s room.

The current members’ backgrounds rivaled the richness of Luther’s history. Luther boasted students from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University across many departments. Ages ranged from 18-year-old undergraduates to a 30-year-old graduate student in the physics department. Needless to say, Luther was not lacking academic diversity.

This diverse group of students not only led to interesting intellectual discussion, but also to some pretty fun everyday experiences. Without Luther I would be less aware of the true devotion required to succeed in a programming course at the University (I am a lowly double major in LSA academic departments). I would never have befriended a School of Art & Design senior set on becoming a minister who simultaneously enjoyed a great social life and rocked a phenomenal party persona.

From creating a ridiculous rivalry for no reason with another co-op to shouting absurd phrases that became yearlong themes (“If someone’s not dying, we’re not living”), we merged from strangers into family. Everyone in the house shared a common humor, from choosing a mural theme (The Great Wave) to cleaning the kitchen messes. I could not think of a better group of people to live with.

Each house member is seen as an equal owner of the space — a participant, a helper and a contributor. At the first house meeting, an executive board is democratically assigned. The food stewards order bulk food and run to the grocery store for specialty items. The kitchen czar maintains the curb appeal of the kitchen and oversees the overall cleanliness of the hub of the house. Work managers create detailed work schedules — one of the reasons why co-ops are so affordable is because of the work hours contributed by each house member.

My personal work experiences were unforgettable. During first semester, I was a chef on Monday evenings, for which my friend Jonah and I were expected to prepare both vegetarian and carnivore dinner options for 50 people. While we definitely burned the rice, and may have accidently transferred a spoonful of bouillon broth to vegetarian chili, we were not the worst chefs by a long shot. Through cooking, we quickly befriended each other.

I was ready for a less strenuous job the next semester. Coming from a family where Edith and Anna (WHO?) had cleaned our home from top to bottom weekly since I was 6 years old, few would peg me as the type to request bathroom cleaning. However, I was happy to scrub until the shower sparkled. While duties differ from cleaning, to cooking, to working at the administrative ICC office, each job requires the cooperation of all house members.

Co-ops are not defined solely through the manner by which they are run either. Luther Haus hosts an annual Halloween party that touts live bands and fierce costumes. We opened our home as the location for weekly Ann Arbor Free Skool cooking classes. I may have lost my mind at times, but overall, my time at Luther made me a more patient, understanding and awesome person because of the people who I was surrounded by and the foundation by which co-ops are run.

Look into co-op living regardless of your academic or social backgrounds, as they are filled with individuals as varied as their locations around campus.

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