For Zee Skracic, a first-year public health graduate student from Eastern Europe, the University of Maryland's first cooperative house for graduate students was the perfect fit.
"When you are living with people you feel you can count on, it makes a big difference," Skracic said. "I hope to be living in CHUM housing for all of my years of education while I'm at Maryland."
Cooperative Housing at University of Maryland and the Graduate Student Government collaborated to provide the house, dubbed Flamingo Paradise. On Aug. 1, the house opened its doors to four graduate students from this university.
Skracic, who is one of two international Flamingo Paradise residents, said cooperative housing provides the inclusive support system foreign students often have trouble finding when they study abroad.
Whenever she is in a bind, Skracic said there is always someone she can count on. Whether she needs someone to run errands for her when she's sick or drive her home from a trip to Ikea, a roommate is always there to help, she added.
"Everybody in the house has been really helpful," Skracic said. "The idea that we're here intentionally to live with each other is a concept that I enjoy and had never really heard of before."
CHUM's decision to commit one of its five rented homes to graduate students is part of its effort to appeal to different student groups, said CHUM Secretary Yvette Meyers, a sophomore computer science major.
The Flamingo Paradise graduate house is a victory for the GSG in its campaign for more affordable housing in the College Park area, said GSG President Stephanie Cork, who helped coordinate the partnership between CHUM and the GSG.
CHUM rents or buys properties from local landlords and pool together finances, which allow them to offer lower prices to residents. They also set out to foster a sense of community for graduate students.
Maxwell Yamane, a second year ethnomusicology graduate student, paid about $1,000 in monthly rent for his last apartment. He now pays about half as much per month to live in CHUM's Flamingo Paradise house, which includes utilities and additional fees.
Recently renovated Flamingo Paradise comes with five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, a living room, a patio and two gardens, which are fittingly filled with plastic lawn flamingos left by the landlords.
In addition to cost and space, Yamane feels CHUM's community-oriented style also makes it better than competing housing providers.
"I chose to apply for the graduate student housing at CHUM so that I could live with other grad students," Yamane said. "It had that family environment I was looking for."
Each night, different residents cook and clean for the rest of the house. Sharing responsibilities cuts costs and creates a bond between students, Meyers said.
CHUM is in the process of applying for a grant from the North American Students of Cooperation so that it can purchase homes in the College Park area to provide more students with affordable housing options, Meyers said.
CHUM agreed to partner with the GSG in February 2016, when it was decided the GSG would designate a house for graduate students.