When I stepped into the UTK Wesley Foundation my freshman year, I had no idea the building would be a landmark of my time at UT. A stage where I would make some of my best memories, where I would grow intellectually and spiritually and where I would build a community of people that loved and supported me just as I did them.

When it came time last spring for me to choose where to live, Wesley seemed the natural choice. After an application and interview process, I joined seven of my best friends in the downstairs apartments.

During my freshman year, I lived in South Carrick; my sophomore year, I moved off campus to The Orchard — a condo off of Cherokee Trail where I lived with three other girls. So far, Wesley has been entirely different from both of these experiences. In Carrick, my roommate and suitemates were awesome, but we were largely isolated from our floor and hall; I met few of the other residents.

In the Orchard, we were even more isolated and never actually met any neighbors, although we had a high degree of freedom. Both years, I was involved at Wesley very heavily, and I viewed it as a second home, a place where I could escape the stress of school and feel like I belonged in the middle of a large campus.

Now, my home and my second home have been combined. The experience has been paradoxical. On one hand, I am constantly surrounded by a vibrant community that encourages me. On the other, I do not always have a place to be alone. It's a tradeoff I have learned to accept and appreciate, and it has forced me to purposefully plan times to be alone, go to the gym and get away for short periods of time.

Wesley operates much like a home, and the residential community is like a family. We have chores and guidelines that encourage us to be role models for the Wesley community. We cannot have alcohol or pets in the building, and we come to the group to discuss issues and problems that arise, whether that's noise or too many dirty dishes.

At Wesley, along with other types of campus ministry housing, there is a higher degree of accountability and usually a lower cost for rent than UT student housing.

Accountability can be a good thing.

This semester, I have learned that in communities, you have to think of the group to a certain degree. Your choices do not just affect yourself. If I listen to music or watch TV really loudly in my room, I have not kept a stranger in my hall awake at night and received a warning. Rather, I have kept Alex from focusing on studying for his organic chemistry test or interrupted Christie's phone call with her family in Memphis. My actions have consequences that are personal instead of vague.

There are other perks – the close proximity to classes (I can roll out of bed at 7:50 for my 8 a.m. in HSS), the short walk to the Strip, the parking where I never have to worry about finding a space.

Mostly though, living in religious housing forces you to be self-aware and considerate. You get to experience the fun and satisfaction of an awesomely-supportive community all the time, and it is a community that is sometimes challenging and difficult.

In the end, though, it is a place to be fed and to serve, a place to study and to sleep, a place to know and be known.

It's home.

Claire Dodson is a junior in English. She can be reached at pdodson@utk.edu.

This content appeared as a part of the fall 2013 housing guide.