Combining cultures

Meredith Compton

International students get a taste of life at Kent State – and vice versa

Freshman exploratory major Annah Trunick; her roommate Ai Taoka, sophomore English major and international student; and Taoka’s boyfriend, sophomore archaeology major Alex Taylor, spend the evening hanging out in Prentice Hall. ABBY FISHER | DAILY KENT ST

Credit: Adam Griffiths

Will she be blonde or brunette? Will he like the same kind of music I do? Will she mind my boyfriend visiting? Will he want to watch football with me?

These are questions students may think about when being faced with a new roommate. There is one question students often never even think about: Will he or she be from another country?

From the inside looking out

Tara Stoffer, junior fashion merchandising major , had to deal with this question when she lived with an Indian student.

Stoffer ended up living with Urvi Patel, a senior in the NEOUCOM program, quite by accident.

“It was by pure chance that Urvi and I got to live together,” Stoffer said in an e-mail interview. “I had signed up for a room in Centennial Court A with some of my friends in the adjoining room, and Urvi just happened to sign up later to be my roommate.”

Stoffer said she didn’t have any problems living with Patel, though she learned a lot from her roommate.

“I learned so much from Urvi, mostly because I always asked so many questions, and she was always more than willing to answer them and explain things to me,” Stoffer said. “I learned a lot about her religion – Hindu – and she would tell me about India and what it was like there and how it was so different from America.”

Stoffer said she did notice differences between herself and her roommate.

“I think the main difference between Urvi and I was probably our study habits,” Stoffer said. “Being Indian, she had come from a strong background and spent a lot of time studying and concentrating on school.”

However, Stoffer said this difference somewhat worked to her advantage.

“This actually worked out really well because some of her amazing study habits rubbed off on me,” she said.

Stoffer encouraged other students to live with students from another culture.

“It’s a great learning experience,” she said. “And I think it’s always good to meet people that on an everyday basis you would never get to meet or be friends with.”

She offered this advice to students living with a person of a different culture: “Make the most of it,” she said. “At times you just need to keep an open mind and realize that everyone is different, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s a great experience, and I would do it again in a second.”

From the outside looking in

Anne-Sophie Colas, a student from France doing her internship at the Gerald Read Center for International and Intercultural Education, has spent a large amount of time living with people of a cultural background different from her own.

Colas has only been living in the United States for two weeks but spent time living and studying in Madrid, Spain.

While there, Colas lived with four Spanish girls in an apartment. She said she learned a lot from her roommates.

Colas said her roommates taught her how to be Spanish. They taught her both the economic and daily vocabulary of the country.

One aspect of the different culture that Colas had to get used to was the different rhythm of life in Spain.

“I worked from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. then had a break, and then worked from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.,” she said.

Colas will only be in the United States for seven weeks and is living alone in an apartment she found on the Internet.

Her advice to students living with a person from a different culture is simple.

“The first two weeks are the hardest,” Colas said. “Just keep an open mind.”

Contact features reporter Meredith Compton at [email protected].