Written by Summer Carreno, (University of Minnesota) Student Correspondent CET Intensive Chinese Language in Beijing, Summer 2015
When lying in bed at night, worrying about your upcoming study abroad program, you might worry about adjusting to the food, language, culture, weather, or if you’ll fit in and make friends. My biggest worry, the worry that was one of the heaviest cons on my to go/not to go to China with CET list, was the prospect of having a Chinese roommate. Not only have I never had to share a room for a time period longer than two weeks, but when I did, the person was either a family member or lived in the same culture as me. In the past, I’ve been fortunate to live with a host family, and even more fortunate to have my own room that I could relax in. Before coming to China, I felt disappointed that I wouldn’t be living with a host family, and I worried that I wouldn’t have someone to help show me around and become adjusted to life in Beijing. I worried about living with a roommate, with someone that I didn’t know, in a country that at times felt so different than my own. Even after only a week in, I know that I had very little reason to worry.
In short, my roommate is awesome. I truly had luck on my side to be paired with such an amazing roommate. From the first night of helping me carry my overly heavy suitcase up four flights of stairs, to tonight when she took me to the biggest bookstore I’ve ever been to (7 stories!), she has proved that having a roommate doesn’t have to be the stuff of horror stories that mothers like to tell their daughters as they prepare to have their first one.
Besides having an exploring buddy that knows all of the best spots in Beijing, having a roommate forces me to practice my Mandarin Chinese conversational speaking skills. From when I first wake up (or when she first wakes up since she starts class after me), to 11 at night when we’re still talking to put off doing homework for just one more minute, we are constantly sharing stories and thoughts. I am able to practice both listening and speaking while also becoming used to that native speaker and day to day accent that can sometimes be lost in the classroom. It’s also so much more fun to practice new grammar and words in an actual conversation with a friend than in class, as helpful and important as that class is.
One of my favorite things about my roommate is that she is the one the most sharing people I’ve ever met. And by sharing, I mean if she has food she practically forces me to also take some (which I don’t see as a problem). In return, I make sure that she tries some of the food and candy that I brought from the United States. It’s the little things of studying abroad, like sharing a piece of almond candy here and flinging a Snickers across the room there, that really pull together the overall experience.
All in all, I wouldn’t trade in my roommate for any other program. In the two months that I’m here, we will probably have times that we get on each other’s nerves or times that we don’t see eye to eye, but by judging how this first week went, I believe that we will be able to work through those bumps and still have an unforgettable time. I look forward to discovering the rest of Beijing, going on the CET historical trip to Anyang together, and anything else that can be squeezed out over the next seven weeks.