By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
Framar House is a small, secluded building located behind Jefferson Hall. A student walking by could miss it at first glance. Ivy climbs up the patio, benches line the front of the house and it is not uncommon to see residents walking up and down the steep, grassy hill leading to the house or playing basketball at the court below. While it may be difficult to find the three-story home, it is also difficult to miss the wide-ranging impact that members of Framar House have made on students at the University of Mary Washington.
Framar, first and foremost, acts as a home to many who are far away from their own.
Framar accommodates foreign exchange students, degree or non-degree seeking, as well as UMW residents. The house was named after its former owners Frank and Marion Reichel.
Kevin Sol, senior Spanish major and vice president of Framar, has lived in the house since he was a freshman.
“It’s been great,” Sol said about living in Framar. “You learn a lot from living there. You stand there and realize you’re not as smart as you think you are, and you grow every day,” Sol said.
Francesca Quaglio is one of the exchange students who has made Framar House her home.
Quaglio, who traveled to UMW from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart) in Milan, Italy, is studying to double major in German and English.
Quaglio is currently taking two British literature classes, a German class and an introduction to Linguistics course. Being on a campus is a new experience to Quaglio.
“In Italy we don’t have campuses. I travel to college by train and live with my parents. Being in a campus and having a place of my own is so cool,” Quaglio said.
The communal aspect of Framar House is especially meaningful to Quaglio.
According to Quaglio, Framar House is “a community. We all know each other. It is like being in a house. You get to know more people better that way as an exchange student.”
The residents of Framar House create a close-knit community by holding meetings once every two weeks on Sunday night. They meet with South Hall, the residency next to them. Each student in Framar has to organize two projects: one inside of the house and one outside the house in order to teach the rest of the group about other cultures.
Last week, a Framar resident showed the rest of the house how to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, by baking challah bread, according to Framar co-president Filagote Taye and former Framar resident Kalynn Blakely.
Embracing diversity is an important component of Framar House.
“Framar teaches you to expand yourself and your understanding of who you are in order to understand and learn from the people around you. You learn to work with people with different backgrounds, and you come to appreciate those differences,” Taye, a senior psychology major, said.
In addition, Framar House organizes events outside of the house, where residents will come together and explore the area and gain new experiences. Earlier this year, the group carpooled to Washington D.C. to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival as a way to expose international students to American traditions. Framar House is planning to travel to New York for fall break this year, according to Sol and Taye.
Residents of Framar create cultural awareness and experiences outside of the house as well as within it.
This fall, residents of the house will once again host Bhangra Beat, a statewide dance competition among Virginia universities that highlights the Punjab-based dance style.
The competition is scheduled for Nov. 22 in the Anderson Center, according to Sol.
Framar House is responsible for inviting and accommodating competing schools and reserving the Anderson Center. This will be the 10th year that Framar House hosts the event, according to Taye.
Residents of Framar enjoy its cozy, homelike interior, the patio poetically wrapped in ivy and the many different people who live in the home.
“[Framar] wasn’t like other dorms. You wouldn’t just walk by someone in the hallway and say ‘hi.’ People would sit down and have real conversations. It feels like a home,” said Blakely.
Samuel Relkin, co-president of Framar House with Taye, said he has also appreciated the number of different people he has gotten to know and live with at Framar.
“There are so many people I wouldn’t have gotten to know if I hadn’t been here,” said Samuel Relkin, a senior English major.
Relkin also said that living with people of different backgrounds and languages has allowed him to practice his Spanish.
Robert Kingsley, a senior English major and Framar resident, said he feels that Framar House has brought him out of his shell.
“I like [Framar House] in a way because I was forced to interact. I’m an introvert, and when I lived at Willard Hall, I never went out. There isn’t anyone here I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable talking with,” said Kingsley.
Residents at Framar House work to extend what they have learned about reaching out to others by giving private tours to interested students and friends. In addition, Framar House also gives open houses and public tours after fall break, when incoming freshmen or other students interested in living in Framar House can explore the house and meet its residents.
Like any residential area, Framar also has its share of quirks and traditions.
In the living room, the residents have a mannequin called Gina, donned with sunglasses and sitting atop the mantle on the fireplace, that adds to the house’s character and the residents’ sense of humor.
One of Framar’s traditions is taking its residents to Waffle House to celebrate their birthdays.
“We’ll take 20 people with us sometimes,” Blakely said with a laugh.
The goal of Framar House is to create a community: first within the house, then extending outside to the campus and surrounding area. The residents of the house are passionate about learning and embracing their differences and using what makes each of their cultures unique to create something meaningful around them.