It’s always great to know students at your school will be coming from all over—different cities, states, and even countries! But sometimes, students are put in situations they’ve never dealt with before, such as having a roommate from another country, who may or may not speak another language. As a former student who had a suitemate from China, I’m here to help! Here are three simple ideas to get along and really connect with your roommate and help them with their culture shock.
1. Learn about each other’s culture
When my suitemate moved in, she gave my other suitemates and me little gifts like tea bags and candies. That’s how we learned that it’s a tradition where she’s from to give small gifts when going to a new place or visiting people you’ve never met. This is just one great example of how you can learn about each other’s lifestyles, cultures, families, etc. Even learning about your roommate’s day-to-day activities might show you a different lifestyle. I know my suitemate from China was not allowed to use a computer every day—or even every couple of days—which is very different from life here where everyone has a computer, uses the Internet daily, and enjoys the luxuries of having a computer.
2. Improve each other’s language skills
It’s always helpful and fun to know the basics of another language. Greetings or simple expressions like “How are you?” can go a long way in connecting with your roommate. With a native speaker helping you, you’ll quickly find yourself picking up on things even if you’ve never really spoken another language before. Although my suitemate and I don’t talk too often—since there’s still a large language barrier—listening to her speak Chinese is fascinating and helpful simply by being exposed to it. And help your roommate out with their English. Although most out-of-country students have English-language admission requirements, it can be extremely difficult for them to come to America (possibly for the first time!) to take classes, make friends, and start a new life. Your roommate will appreciate the effort of helping them refine their speaking skills!
3. Try new things together
There’s no question that a roommate from another country will bring food, games, and other exciting interests to school from their home country. So why not get in on the new things while you can and try them out? Eat a new type of food you may not eat otherwise or learn a new type of game they play with family back home. It’s another way of expanding your horizons and learning about the lives of people in places all over the world, but now you can get involved in it too! Not only will you learn new things, but you’ll also create a closer bond with your roommate. In fact, go the extra step to join on-campus cultural clubs and organizations together to connect and bond with other students over cultural interests.
Having a roommate from another country or place may seem intimidating at first, but it can truly be an enriching experience for you and them! You can learn so much from people who come from backgrounds wildly different than yours—and they can learn so much from you too! Who knows when you’ll have the opportunity again? And if you can get past any language barrier issues, you may just have a global friend for life.
Get more great advice on adjusting to a new roommate in our Student Life section.