Despite the uncertainty of the summer of 2020 as the global COVID-19 pandemic established itself as a seemingly permanent presence in our lives, I knew one thing: I wouldn’t be back on my college campus for at least one semester. However, that one grounding fact further threw into question my situation: If I’m not on campus, what will occupy the time that campus life usually takes up?
In discussions around the dinner table with my family, my grandmother was the one who tossed out the idea with a shrug and a grin. “You could build a tiny house!” she said. The seed of the project had been planted, and I dwelled on it quite a bit in the early days of that summer. I pondered whether I should, or even could, build a tiny house over my final two years of college. I knew that it was an intriguing, exciting project that I had passion for, as it intersects with my environmental studies major, but I could feel the weight of this decision. I knew it would be a big undertaking with potentially an even bigger payoff through the experiences I could gain.
Ultimately, I took the plunge, thinking to myself: If not now, when? The project quickly solidified into a commitment with the option to use it as my environmental studies honors thesis project—which I did!
Building began a few short months later in October 2020, and the speed of progress was astounding. My dad, his parents, and my uncle came to the site every weekend to work nine- to 10-hour days in the first few months of the build, offering their time, tools, supplies, and support—all of which I am forever grateful for.
Even more helpful were my three roommates, Julia Sharapi ’22, Niki Melnick ’23, and Diana Biesecker ’22, who were there almost as often as I was to help with anything and everything. The house would still be a shell of what it is now if it were not for their support.
I’ve also worked many days on my own, which has taught me how resourceful and strong I am. But the days spent on the site with my family, friends, and fellow Gettysburgians were some of the most rewarding, mentally and physically challenging, and fun days in my life.
After graduating in May, I’m taking the house with me wherever I may end up. I’m still working on it, and progress has been slow due to all of the responsibilities of my last semester at Gettysburg College, but I could never have asked for a better way to spend what could’ve been the most uneventful, pandemic-harried two years of my life.
It may be a tiny house, but to me, it offered such a big opportunity—one you only get once in a lifetime.
by Zachary de Besche ’22