In an ugly election year, some would consider that the ultimate horror, but not Cassidy Gard, one of seven politically-minded young voters who agreed to move into a Washington, D.C. row house for the Fullscreen reality series House Divided, a political Real World for millennials.
The show, which concludes with a two-hour finale on Nov. 6, “was stressful, but I’m glad I did it,” says Gard, 26, of Los Angeles, the founder of a digital media company, CiGi TV, who is voting for Clinton.
“We talked politics 24/7 and weren’t allowed to leave the house unless our reason was approved several days in advance and we had a chaperone,” she tells PEOPLE. “It wasn’t easy — in fact, it was frustrating. Being confined and arguing for that long messes with your head. But it was great to stand up for what I believe in.”
Gard and her roommates, who spent hours debating everything from abortion and gun control to climate change and immigration, did their best to persuade each other to come around to their ways of thinking, but in the end, after eight episodes, few minds were changed.
“I learned something from everybody in the house, but the truth is, we were constantly at each other’s throats,” Saqib Javed, 22, an undecided voter during the shooting of the series who now supports Green Party candidate Jill Stein, tells PEOPLE.
“Although it was the experience of a lifetime, it was extremely difficult for me, especially because I was the only Muslim,” adds Javed, a criminal justice student at Wayne State University who made headlines last March for being ejected from several Trump rallies while dressed in a stylish sherwani.
“Muslims have been treated like second-class citizens in this country,” he tells PEOPLE “and that’s not OK. I feel like we’re being used as pawns by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. There’s no way I could vote for either of them.”
Although the 20-somethings who participated in “House Divided” are a diverse lot, perhaps none of them was more surprising to viewers than Alex Chalgren, an 18-year-old high school senior from Irmo, South Carolina, who is gay, African-American and voting for Trump.
“I took a lot of flack — everybody is baffled that I can be a Trump supporter,” says Chalgren, who hopes to get accepted into the United States Military Academy (West Point) after he graduates from Dutch Fork High School.
“Trump isn’t perfect, but then none of them are,” he tells PEOPLE, “and I can see through the facade that we need to elect another establishment person as president. I believe that Trump is far more perfect than Hillary Clinton, and I honestly believe that he’s going to win.”
Chalgren clashed frequently on the show with Gard, who believes that Donald Trump’s entire campaign has been based on fear.
“He’s feeding Americans the lie that helping others in the world puts us last in line,” Gard tells PEOPLE. “His supporters say they are passionate, but I don’t think that’s a word that should be substituted for ‘hateful.’ I can’t imagine a world where Donald Trump is president, so I just don’t let my mind go there.”
After the show finished shooting, Gard was so tired of the bickering and contention that she removed herself from the “House Divided” group text chain, choosing instead to lose herself in Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love.
“Although I appreciate learning about others’ views, you have to have the grace to know when to dial it in,” she tells PEOPLE with a sigh. “I’m glad that it’s over and I’m moving on. I just keep visualizing waking up on November 9th — when Hillary Clinton will be our first female president.”