Oh! Yeah, so Pendle Hill is not really like a co-housing situation by any means. It's really more like a cross between an academic institution and a retreat/conference center. There's a resident student program (which is my role here, I'm a resident student), and you pay tuition to be here as a resident student just like at a college or university (but you don't get a degree here, you just take classes). The tuition is about half of what it actually costs to be here, which means that basically all students get at least 50% scholarship, and then other scholarships are available to allow students to be here for various purposes. So there are some special scholarships for people working on particular projects, there's one for an Artist-in-Residence, there are a few for social justice activists, etc (see: http://www.pendlehill.org/residentprogr ... holarships
). The 50% scholarship that everyone gets is based on the fact that everyone works as part of being in community here, so each person has responsibilities such as working in the kitchen, housekeeping duties, etc. that we all do. Some of us who need more scholarship assistance to be here have more work responsibilities - that's my job in the library here; I work 8 hours a week there and it covers additional portions of my tuition.
So, in addition to the resident student program, we also have staff members (some of whom live on campus, in community, and others who are only here when they are working and then they go home to their own houses) who work here. Then we have "sojourners", which is what we call guests who stay here for whatever period of time. Sojourners pay to stay here like a bed-and-breakfast; they get a room for however long they stay, they pay for their meals, etc. Pendle Hill often hosts groups on retreat, and we have a couple spaces where groups can all stay together and hold their meetings for a rental fee. In addition, Pendle Hill regularly holds weekend or week-long workshops which people come to attend. Basically, at any given time, many of the people here are "just visiting", either for a workshop or just for a sojourn, and they are paying as guests to stay here. There are a couple staff members who live on campus and have lived on campus a long time, so this is "home" for them, and those of us who are here as students for a long time start to feel like it's our "home", but on some level really we're all just guests here.
So, now to actually answer some of the questions you asked...
Yeah! people definitely get on my nerves sometimes. Before I came here, I had my own apartment for 2 1/2 years and it was soooooo nice to be able to hole away and not deal with anybody, especially at meals. For me the most challenging thing about living in community is eating meals with lots of people. But, I've learned to adapt. I know that if I want to eat alone, I can just take my food and go someplace else with it to eat. If I want to be alone for a day or two, I can stay in my room (everyone does have their own room!) It's not always easy to be alone, because there are interesting people all over and one often really wants to be around them because they're sooooo! interesting! no matter how introverted one knows oneself to be...but, it can definitely be done, I just have to be very intentional about making the time and space for solitude.
I do feel like I have enough space. I don't personally really need a whole lot of space just as long as some of it is "mine" that I can be alone in, and since I have my own room, that need is met adequately. It's frustrating sometimes that I don't have my own KITCHEN space -- in the dorm, we have just a microwave and a fridge; all our food is prepared by the kitchen staff in the kitchen, and the food is absolutely wonderful but you don't really get much say in what the food actually is beyond your specific dietary needs (though, I have convinced most of the cooks to stop using bell peppers in the vegan options, since I'm the only vegan and I hate bell peppers!)
I don't really get that tired of being away from the "outside world". I thought I would, but I really don't. If I'm given the choice between being somewhere else and being here, I usually prefer to be here. Other people feel differently; they really like getting off campus when they can and going out and doing stuff, but I just really like being here, doing stuff here, being with people who are here, having people come visit me here.
I love the balance of solitude and community interaction that I have here. Interesting people come through here a lot and I love to get to know them while they're here. It's also very much a norm of this community that if someone needs "alone time", they can just say that's what they need and nobody judges them about that or takes offense.
So as far as fees, like I explained above, as a resident student there are tuition costs, and my scholarship covers those costs since I don't have money. It's discouraged for resident students to have a job while here because it really is hard to be fully in the program and also work outside, but I sometimes am able to get some extra spending money from seeing massage or Tarot clients, other students do tutoring or babysitting sometimes, that sort of thing.
I'm interested to hear what else you encounter in your search for community!