Starting college can be scary and intimidating. My first year, one thing I was so afraid of was having a roommate for the first time. I don’t remember ever having to share a room as a kid, so the thought of having to share a room with someone else was a little daunting. I didn’t know what to expect. Saying I was nervous is an understatement.
I went to a college that chose your roommate for you. You filled out a survey and they placed you with someone they thought was compatible with you, or at least that’s what they claimed. The summer before my freshman year I got the email with my room assignment and the name of my roommate. I was nervous, but also excited. I looked at the name and immediately feel myself grow even more nervous than I already was.
The name on the email was, I was sure, not an American name. This girl is Chinese. That was the thought that immediately raced through my head. Of course, I didn’t know this for a fact, but that wasn’t the issue in that particular moment. The issue was, not only would I have to share a room with someone I had never met, I had to share a room with someone from another country. It was a scary concept having to not only adjust to sharing a room with someone I didn’t know. It was scary having to share a room with someone whose culture, language, and entire lifestyle I knew nothing about.I have to share a room with someone I had never met, I had to share a room with someone from another country. It was a scary concept having to not only adjust to sharing a room with someone I didn’t know. It was scary having to share a room with someone whose culture, language, and entire lifestyle I knew nothing about.
I knew going into that it wasn’t going to be easy. As it turns out, she was Chinese. She didn’t know much English when we met (but her English surprisingly improved quite rapidly). Over time we grew into great friends. Even though she was from the other side of the world, she was in a lot of ways, very similar to me.
I currently have a different international roommate from Japan. She is just as great as the first roommate I had. I have learned through my roommate experiences that having an international roommate is far from scary. In fact, it’s the closest thing to studying abroad I may ever experience. It gives me the experience without having to leave the country (although they definitely make me want to visit their countries).
Having an international roommate has been the best thing for me. The first time was an accident, but the second time was deliberate. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get to learn about different countries and teach my roommate about mine. I get to teach them things about English and they get to teach me their language. It is challenging, but it is definitely worth it if you can’t afford to go to another country.
I love the fact that I get to learn about another country and another culture through the words of someone who is actually from there. It allows me to ask real questions and get real responses. It’s not from a textbook or a movie. It’s from the people I meet. I get to learn about the daily life of someone from another country.
I also get a little insight on how people from other countries view our country. Living with someone from a different society helps me understand my own a little better. It helps me see the good, the bad, and most of all, the ugly. I see through trying to explain certain things just how bad some things reflect on our society. I get to see why certain things aren’t important to other countries. I get to see what is important to other cultures.
Having an international roommate has helped me realize what I love about America. From the holidays we celebrate to the things we take for granted. It’s not really a bad place to live. Sure there are things I wish I could change, but at the end of the day I am lucky. I am lucky to have kindness and support all around me. There are many places in the world that don’t have that.
Getting to help someone experience a new holiday or tradition for the first time is another reason having an international roommate is the best. I got to give both of my international roommates their first experience with Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and decorating a Christmas tree. Decorating a Christmas tree is small to most Americans because we do it every year. But they have never experienced that and it is exciting to them. All these things we take for granted until we see someone else experience them for the first time.
Lastly, the thing I think is the best about having an international roommate is realizing just how similar you really are. Despite being from opposite sides of the world, you have things in common-some that you never even expected.
Having an international roommate is a great experience. There are so many benefits and rewards. Getting to see the world through the viewpoint of someone from another country is something not everyone gets to experience. It is something that should never be taken lightly or taken for granted.
Featured Image via Unsplash