A Home Away From Home For International Students In Urban Philadelphia

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Thanks for visiting our website. The Charis House is a rooming house which welcomes international students attending universities in Urban Philadelphia. It's purpose is to provide a rich, multi-cultural living experience in a comfortable home environment.

The Charis House is a large, 1904 Victorian row home located on 4441 Spruce Street in University City not far from UPenn and Drexel Universities. It has a "home away from home" feeling, created especially with international students in mind. It is an ideal living arrangement for those who enjoy community living and developing multicultural friendships.

The Charis House is the second house that owners, Steve and Lani Borgman Shade, have operated for international students. Having both come from families who provided a broad range of hospitality, Steve and Lani desire to continue in that tradition by extending friendship to all who come through their doors.

Charis House Bedrooms

There are 4 bedrooms, 3 of which are double occupancy rooms that may be shared, if desired, with someone of the same gender. There is a newly renovated bathroom shared by all on the 3rd floor. Bedrooms come completely furnished with beds, bed linens, dressers, closets, desks, and ceiling fans. Rents range from $500 to $775 per month (depending on bedroom arrangement and length of lease signed) and include electric, gas, phone, and water utilities, a computer with a high speed wireless internet connection, household supplies, some common food items, and the use of a fully furnished house including a living room, dining room, TV room, kitchen, and back yard.

The Garden Room

This bedroom can be rented as a single bedroom or as a shared bedroom. The color scheme is that of a summer garden, has two windows, a newly carpeted floor, and is reserved for female students. The closet is a built-in original Victorian closet with shelves, drawers, and hanging space.

The Autumn Beauty Room

This bedroom can be rented as a single bedroom or as a shared bedroom. The color scheme has warm autumn colors with mostly antique/Victorian furnishings. The closet is quite large and has a shelf for additional clothing or books. This room has one window, a newly carpeted floor, and stays warm in the cooler weather.

The Ocean Tranquility Room

This bedroom can only be rented as a small single bedroom. The color scheme is that of light blue accompanied by a nautical pictures. The bed has three large drawers for clothing storage, a desk, and a large closet with a shelf for additional clothing storage. This room has a newly carpeted floor, one window, and stays nice and warm in the winter.

The Summer Breezes Room

This bedroom can be rented as a single bedroom or as a shared bedroom. The color scheme represents lighter summer colors. All the furniture in this room is new and has old fashioned wood décor. This room has two windows on opposite walls creating a nice cross breeze in the summer. The room has a newly carpeted floor. There is a large closet accompanied with shelves.

Common Areas

The common living area of the house is located on the first floor of the house and all students living at the Charis House are encouraged to make use of all these rooms. There is an additional half bathroom on the first floor and there are laundry facilities located in the basement which all students are welcome to use. Below is a description of each of the common living area rooms.

The Living and Dining Room

The living room is available for community use, talking, reading, and relaxing. This area is also used for entertaining, and events such as English classes, Book Club meetings, and optional Bible discussion groups. Over-night guests are welcome to use this room from time to time. The attached dining room is also available for everyone to use and is where community meals are shared.

Den/TV Room

The den, an informal sitting room where discussion, games, or TV viewing can take place, is available to everyone in the house. A television, DVD, VCR, and stereo system are available for use by residents. Since one of the central purposes of The Charis House is to promote community, we encourage students to take advantage of the large selection of interactive games provided in the Den for use with friends and other residents. A computer is available for all to use with a high-speed wireless internet connection.


We have a newly renovated, modern kitchen for all students to use. The kitchen comes equipped with a refrigerator, oven, stove, microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and dishwasher. Each resident will have a personal cabinet to place their own food in. Certain staple food items are shared by everyone and are located in the island section of the kitchen. Some of these items include: Spices and baking ingredients.


We have a small backyard that has a nice seating area which is ideal for relaxing on warm Spring, Summer, and early Fall days and evenings. Grill parties and community meals are often enjoyed outside during the summer months. On cooler days, we have an outside fireplace which can be enjoyed during the day or night.

Front Porch

This is the entry into the main house. It has a nice seating area overlooking Spruce Street and is also where every student has a personal mailbox to receive mail at.


The Charis House is located in University City, Philadelphia (indicated as the red house on the map) and is within walking distance of both UPenn and Drexel Universities. There is easy access to public transportation with a bus stop on the corner of our block, a bike path running along our street, and access to both the UPenn and Drexel shuttles. On-street parking is available for those who have cars. We live in a relatively safe neighborhood but we recommend that all students use the shuttle service or university escort service after dark. For more information about public transportation options see: or

Student Comments

In the last 8 years, we have hosted over 125 international students coming from 40 different countries around the world. Each student contributes to the unique atmosphere of the house by sharing their home culture and traditions allowing everyone to have one of the richest multi-cultural experiences to be had in Philadelphia.

"When I was staying in the apartment, I often felt lonely. The feeling that I most hate was that there was no one in the house when I came back home at night after heavy school work. Now there is always someone whom I can talk to. People here are very nice; they are like my second family. I can also practice English a lot here."
- Min Young Lee, Korea

"I had I wonderful time at Charis House and it was for me a home away from home. I was not only a renter of a student room, but I was a part of the family. I also really liked the Victorian house with all the lovely furnished rooms, which have all their own charm. I think everyone who loves community will spend a wonderful time at Charis House."
- Janine Mueyers, Germany

"I really enjoy meeting so many international students in The Charis House. It was a great opportunity to learn, explore, and discover new cultures and languages. Everyone here is super friendly, and really going to miss living/studying in such beautiful rooms. Thanks Lani and Steve for all you have done this year!"
- Roy Y. Chan, USA (Boston, MA)

"Living at the Charis House is like traveling the world without leaving the confines of the house. It is a very good place to learn about different customs. Housemates from different countries bring with them different customs which is the foundation for very stimulating conversation. I have been here for almost a year and have met wonderful people from Japan, China, Germany, Greece, Holland, and Taiwan. It's just a very rich multi-cultural environment that is hard not to love."
- Vincent Rhoden, Jamaica

Activites at the Charis House

Desiring to create a family atmosphere among all who live at the Charis House, all residents gather together every Sunday evening to enjoy a community dinner. Everyone has a chance to cook a meal for others in the house reflecting their native cuisine. In addition to weekly community dinners, we enjoy monthly activities. Below is a sample of some of the activities we have organized.


Activities such as boating, camping, rafting, and picnics have been among our favorites!


Fall provides the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful changing colors of the leaves while observing fun holidays like Halloween.


Whether decorating the house for Christmas or enjoying the snow, we manage to still have fun during the colder months.


Go Karts, Hiking, and Sightseeing are just some of the things which are fun to do when the weather warms up.

Holiday Dinners and Celebrations

St. Patricks Day, Easter, and Thanksgiving are just some of the holidays during which we enjoy special dinners and traditions.