Living in Community

This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.

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Women Living Well - 2004

Student Papers

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Living in Community

Amna Shamim

Living in a community is a challenging responsibility, one which we most likely never stop to think about as, except for the rare hermit, we all live in many communities throughout our lives. As children, we lived in the communities of our family, our neighborhood, our school and any other activities we might have engaged in such as sports teams or social clubs. These communities were easy to adjust to because they were the communities we were raised in. There was automatic acceptance simply for being who we were, without any need to consciously conform to the community because it was the community who shaped our growth as a person.

In high school and college, community is harder because now the communities we live in are ones we have consciously decided to join. In a larger community, one like Bryn Mawr, we are usually aware of the values and rules which shape the community. A person who is a compulsive liar wouldn't choose to come to Bryn Mawr where honesty and integrity are such emphasized values. Different core values and codes draw different people to different communities. Always, there is one tie that binds everyone in the community together, despite all their many other differences. At Bryn Mawr, I feel that tie is the dedication to the pursuit of challenging oneself through rigorous academia. It's not an usual tie since many institutions of higher learning bond their students through similar ties. But Bryn Mawr is one large community that contains within it, many other smaller ones.

It's easy to join other communities at Bryn Mawr whether they are in the form of culture clubs, sports teams or simply people you live with in a dorm. Each of these communities are ones people choose to join (or at least can choose to opt out of) and form bonds with the people in their communities. In all of these communities, great or small, there are tensions which translate into standards of being. Each community has expectations for the behavior and growth of its members. Bryn Mawr expects people to be intelligent and motivated, honest and ethical. These tensions and standards motivate people to hold themselves up to the ideal and better themselves through the tensions. Sometimes though, instead of being helpful, these tensions can be detrimental.

Sometimes when people don't manage to adapt themselves quickly enough or completely enough into a community, it creates tensions that sometimes end with that community member being ostracized. Often these tensions will begin slowly and create a lot of stress for the individual who isn't acclimating themselves quickly enough or completely enough. Because a community is tied together through similar values or experiences, it expects certain behaviors and values from its members. This is fine except for when the community stresses mutuality at the expense of individuality.

To avoid stressing community members out of wanting to be part of any community, it is important that all the community members approach each other with a certain level of understanding and acceptance. While there are core values and behaviors that are the ties that bind the community together, no member should ever forget that the others are individuals and it is each member's individuality and strength which makes the community what it is.

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