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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, April 19, 2024

Second annual Fall Fest puts Commuter House in spotlight

There are not many places you can go if you want to taste traditional German food at one table and New England cider doughnuts at the next, but this is what the Off-Hill Council’s Fall Fest provided this past Saturday, Sept. 26.

Enclosed in a fence on the Residential Quad, the Fall Fest represented 10 different Tufts culture houses, showcased a live band and offered hay rides in a horse-drawn carriage.

Junior Bryan Kenny, a Commuter House co-manager and the Off-Hill Council vice president, explained that the Off-Hill Council organized this event to feature different cultures on campus.

“The Off-Hill Council is a student-run organization that represents students who live off campus, and also commuter students,” he said. “So we put this event together as an opportunity to bring together a lot of different cultures here at Tufts and give all the different cultures an opportunity to showcase themselves.”

Chiamaka Chima, a Tufts graduate student and Kenny’s co-manager of the Commuter House, added to Kenny’s statement about the history and purpose of the Fall Fest.

“This is the second annual fall festival,” Chima said. “We actually started this event last year when we figured Tufts does not have any platform where every single culture house comes together at the same time for the entire community to come and check out.”

Although the Fall Fest was a way to unify the different international off-campus houses, this year it focused on raising awareness for the Commuter House.

Senior Dan Bozovic, president of the Off-Hill Council and a Commuter House resident, shared his experience as a commuter who enjoys the benefits of the house.

“I became a commuter my junior year...and I didn’t even know about the Commuter House until I got an email from my friend saying ‘you should check out the Commuter House,’” he said. “I had no idea what it was, so I went, investigated and learned from John [Kenny], the previous house manager, that there was an actual place on campus where you can come and feel like you’re part of the community.”

Chima echoed Bozovic’s sentiment, explaining that the Commuter House helps commuters feel less isolated on campus.

“Students commute for different reasons, and when you commute from your house to school, back to your house to school, you feel detached from the rest of the campus," Chima said. "And that’s what the Commuter House serves to act as a bridge for, to make you feel integrated and that you are not a stranger at Tufts.”

According to Chima and Kenny,after being defunded by the Tufts Community Union in 2002, the Off-Hill Council has recently made strides toward become re-recognized as a student organization. The Fall Fest was one of many activities the Off-Hill Council plans to hold this semester in its effort to regain TCU funding. To kickstart this process, the Off-Hill Council has reached out to their alumni ties.

“We’ve been working actively with the Off-Hill Council Alumni Advisory Board,” Kenny said. “That’s a group of alumni that were part of the Off-Hill Council [during] their time at Tufts ... A few years ago, the commuters and other students living off-hill got together and started working with the alumni and also just gaining momentum as a group that wanted to make a positive influence on the Tufts community.”

Amidst the international foods at the Fall Fest, some tables held apple cider and blueberry pies as well as classically American fare. Chima spoke to this representation of the commuters at the event.

“So we represent, as the commuters, the New England culture,” Chima said. “Considering that [we] are the locals, which better people to represent New England culture than the commuters?”

Alongside the locals bringing traditional cider doughnuts, sack races and hay rides, the international houses, like the German Language House and the Latino Culture House, brought traditional foods from their home countries.

Senior Vanessa Luensmann is an exchange student from Germany and a manager in the German House, a residence represented by the Off-Hill Council.

“So basically you have to have any relationship to Germany; some students studied in Germany last year, or some of them have family in Germany, or some of them study German,” she said. “So in the German House we try to speak German, we try to talk about the German culture and we want to show the Americans how the Germans live and what they do, so that’s why we also took part in the Fall Fest.”

Standing in front of a table filled with customary German dishes, Luensmann described the foods that the German House residents prepared for the event.

“We prepared some traditional German food," she said. "We brought German potato salad and pretzels and bread ... [Preparing the food] was a community thing. All of the house members and all of the German exchange students were sitting together and cooking potatoes and cutting potatoes.”

"La Casa," as it is known by members of the Latino Culture House, was also present at the Fall Fest with an accompanying table full of classic Latin desserts. Junior Rey Cantu explained the differences between the Latino Culture House and the Spanish House.

“It’s different from the Spanish Language House ... The Latino Culture House is mainly more for celebrating the cultures of Latin America, whereas the Spanish House is more about the language and more Spanish countries like Spain,” Cantu said.

Cantu also said that the food they shared at the festival was a joint decision by the house.

“We were just talking to all the house members, and we decided just to get flan,” Cantu said. “Because flan is a really big dessert in a lot of Latin cultures, like I know in Mexico it’s really big, also in Cuba and Puerto Rico. So it’s a good representation of the desserts that a lot of Latin cultures love.”

With all of the proceeds from this event going to Project Soup and Mystic Valley Food Pantry, the Off-Hill Council was able to mix in philanthropy with food, fun and games. Bozovic concluded with his takeaway from the Fall Fest event, dubbing it a success.

“I think [the event] has been great,” he said. “We definitely made some improvements from last year in terms of having live music. It’s also a beautiful day today so it’s been really nice in that regard ... We got a lot of donations again this year -- I think even more than last year, so overall I think the event was a really big success.”