March 06, 2024 | Matt Kucinski

Three students in a photo sitting on a long branch with a field behind them.

As high school seniors make their college decisions, one key question starts to bubble to the surface, ‘who will be my roommate?’ While the “who” might seem like an important question, according to Calvin University fifth-year senior Sam Fynewever, it’s not the best one.

Fynewever’s experience over the past four-and-a-half years has proven that the “how” residential living is done is an even more important factor than “who” is sleeping in the bunk across the room.

As a first-year student, Fynewever said his traditional dorm floor (2nd Beets) had a solid group of guys who participated in many traditions, but what he enjoyed most were “the informal hangouts, standing in the coffee kitchen or hallway, baking together and enjoying the fruits of our labors.”

Those conversations got deeper during his sophomore year when he joined the Honors Floor. “We had fascinating conversations every night,” said Fynewever. “As soon as I was done with homework, I’d head down to the lobby, and that was my reward. We’d sit and talk about what’s going on in classes, but also about fascinating philosophical and theological stuff, about any subject in the world.”

Digging deeper

As one might expect moving through college, relationships often get deeper. For Fynewever, that was certainly the case. But it wasn’t because he was always around the same people.

“My roommates and housemates have changed from year-to-year over the course of my time at Calvin,” said Fynewever, “But one thing that has always been the same: a deep commitment to living in wholehearted community.”

While Fynewever’s experience early on at Calvin had a level of intentionality, his experience over the past two years living in Project Neighborhood took it to another level.

“This house (besides, well, Gospel Choir and semesters abroad in Peru and Honduras) has been the absolute best thing about my Calvin experience,” said Fynewever. “We work through conflicts with so much grace, humility, engagement—and come to solutions that really work well for everyone—on issues of all sorts, both those as significant as who rooms with who, and those as day-to-day as who hasn’t been doing their dishes.”

Living intentionally

Project Neighborhood (PN) is a housing opportunity that allows Calvin students to live in intentional Christian community in the city of Grand Rapids. The students commit to personal spiritual growth, structured time together as house residents, and to serving the neighborhood and community.


Fynewever lives with six other Calvin students and a married couple with a baby in Koinonia House in Eastown, which Fynewever describes as “a ‘streetcar suburb’ developed in the 1930s and the idea is that everything is walkable.”

The housemates eat dinner together every Sunday night, with the housemates taking turns preparing the meal in groups of two or three at least once per month. They participate in a weekly Bible study, serve together in their local neighborhood, hosting a block party every fall and a pancake breakfast each spring. Perhaps most importantly, they participate in the hard, but fulfilling work of being an intentional community.

“College life is hard,. Whether classes or relationships or whatever you are going through, college is always so packed, and we take time and space to unpack that,” said Fynewever. “We talk about nitty gritty things, and also we make time to have conversations that are hard to have.”

Learning life lessons

For Fynewever, his house’s conversations cut through what he calls West Michigan nice. “It’s refreshing for me. We get to the point. If there’s miscommunication, we can clear things up in community with each other.”

In many ways, this experience of listening well and having gracious conversations is not only equipping Fynewever and his housemates with life lessons that will serve them well in future living situations, but it’s also helping the mathematics and Spanish double major prepare to be a better teacher.

“One of my World Languages professors, David Smith, uses a pedagogy that has been so impactful for me—this idea that we are teaching and learning all the time, learning from the stranger, from people different from ourselves. It’s important to have a posture of being open to learn from other cultures, languages, and people that are all very different,” said Fynewever. “God gave us two ears to hear, and we must always be open to learning from someone new, and across dividing walls.”

Fynwever has seen an opportunity to do just that throughout his time at Calvin, and especially in the places he resides.

“This community has been so absolutely life-giving for me,” said Fynewever.

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