Do you know that most first-year students including international students are required to live on-campus? This is actually a great opportunity for international students to make new friends, learn more about different cultures, and introduce theirs to other people. However, many students seem to be worried about living with a roommate with cultural, lifestyle, personality, or language differences. Let me tell you a secret: you are not alone. Feeling anxiety towards meeting a new person is natural, so imagine how much more difficult it may be living with someone you have not met before. But do not worry, I have gathered some tips from talking with my friends Nora, Grace, Rida, and Dongshun about their experience living with their roommates. I hope their stories will provide you different perspectives and lessons to help you foster a good relationship with your future roommate(s).
Let’s get started…
Be a Nora: Be open to embracing the new
Nora came from Vietnam to the U.S. 7 years ago with goals that most students had: to pursue tertiary education and make the most out of the experience. Since this is the first time Nora was so far from home for a long time, she found a community with other Vietnamese students to make her feel connected. However, Nora told me that she was never fully able to experience the American culture because she was surrounded by people who shared her culture most of the time. However, things changed six months ago when she decided to move in with Grace, an American student from Colorado. Nora shared with me that Grace taught her a lot about the U.S and explained different customs to her. They participated in many events together. Grace and her family invited Nora to a Thanksgiving dinner and Nora learned so much about the holiday. In return, Nora told me that she got a chance to share her Vietnamese cultures with Grace. She and Grace now are such good roommates because they are open to learning new things from each other.
Be a Grace: Be respectful of differences
Grace, a domestic student from Aurora, Colorado, is Nora’s roommate. Unlike Grace’s rewarding relationship with Nora, her previous roommate experience was not as good. Grace shared with me that she and her previous roommates were often in conflict because of their different lifestyles. While Grace’s ex-roommate was minimalistic, Grace loved to personalize her space with mementos that created a “cluttered cozy” atmosphere. However, her experience living with someone different from her taught her how to be respectful of other lifestyles. Respect doesn’t always mean learning to agree, “sometimes you have to let stuff go,” says Grace “it doesn’t always have to be just how I like it.” Learning to make compromises has helped Grace to be a more compatible roommate, ultimately contributing to her friendship with Nora.
Be a Rida: Learn to communicate
Rida is a student from Lahore, Pakistan who has been living in the U.S. for 4 years. Similar to Grace, Rida had had a difficult situation with her first roommate. Rida shared with me that she and her first roommate had a miscommunication about boundaries that led to a disagreement and ruined their relationship. Rida told me that she learned from her previous experience and now when something happens, Rida is more willing to sit down and have an open conversation with her new roommate. To Rida, cleanliness is essential. She communicated that with her roommate and both came to an agreement about chores and cleaning habits. They both understand each other’s expectations and are flexible with their different schedules. Rida said the most important things in a good roommate relationship are communication, patience, and respect.
Be Donghoon: Be a good listener
Donghoon is a student who is no stranger to adjusting to new cultures. Originally from South Korea, Donghoon moved with his family to Mexico about 3 years ago and then started school in the U.S. At DU, Donghoon found it easier to make friends especially with Latin Americans and people who speak Spanish. He had developed a friendship with his first roommate who happens to be from Ecuador, and the two decided to room together again this year. Donghoon described his relationship with his current roommate as “Sweet and Salty.” On one hand, he likes that they are friends and can have fun times together. On the other hand, he sometimes needs his own space. Despite the “saltiness”, Donghoon feels he is very tolerant of his roommate’s behaviors. He says that one thing that always brings them closer after an argument is talking about their social life and their interests. And it helps that Donghoon always listens with a good ear, because after such late night talks that last until dawn they forget whatever it was they were angry about.
All my friends, Nora, Grace, Rida and Dongshoon, have had both good and bad experiences living with their roommates, but they learned to resolve their issues with their roommates through adopting the four values:
Openness to new experiences
True, every person’s experience with their roommate is different, but I am certain that with these four values you can develop a good relationship with your roommate that may even bud into a lifelong friendship.
Editor: Anh Chip Pham & Grace Sullivan
Learn more about other international student experiences at the University of Denver: