International Roommates

Student in dorm room


The new International Living-Learning Center (ILLC) is aptly named. International students live with American roommates — sharing rooms as well as their different cultures and perspectives. There are state-of-the-art academic spaces and stylish common areas with full kitchens on every floor, a grocery store specializing in organic and ethnic foods and a Peet’s Coffee & Tea. The ILLC is home to INTO OSU, a unique partnership that is bringing more international students to the Oregon State community. Walk through the building, and you’ll find people from around the world living and learning together.

We asked a pair of roommates, David Shumway, of Tualatin, Oregon, and Then Le Xan, of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, what they think of living in Oregon State University’s newest residence hall.


Q What makes the ILLC unique compared to other residence halls?

David  I bring my friends over here and they are so envious! They say, “I can’t believe you live here! How can I live here?” The community and the layout are different than any other residence hall. Other residence halls are more established, and they have their own traditions. Generations of students have lived in those halls, but there is this “wild frontier” feeling to the ILLC, so at times it can seem sort of strange and new. But there is already a community that is building here. People are getting to know each other and there are a lot of intercultural connections that are happening, so it’s a really unique experience.

Then  This building is unique because the rooms and the classes are in the same building. This is really convenient for me. I can be on time to class, even if I wake up five minutes before.

Roommates in a dormitory roomQ Why did you choose to come to Oregon State University?

David  I had heard a lot of great things about OSU, and I went to high school in Oregon. I have a lot of friends here so
I came during my winter break and looked at University of Oregon and Oregon State University. I liked OSU a lot more! I liked the campus, I liked the people, and I loved the dorms! Housing was a huge thing for me. I stayed with my friends in residence halls on both campuses for a few days, and the housing at OSU was far superior. I liked the culture a lot more here. And then the academic programs were very strong too, so I chose Oregon State University.

Then  INTO OSU came to Vietnam to introduce the school to my high school. I found a lot of information about the weather and the social life here. The living style over here is quite good. That’s why I chose Oregon State University. I chose the U.S. over the U.K. or Australia because I think life in the U.S. is more active and people are quite friendly.

Q Why did you choose to live with an international roommate?

David  Well, an American roommate would be fun, but I wanted the adventure. That’s the same reason I went abroad to study last year. I thought it would be a nice transition back to the States for me. I can still keep up with the rest of the world like I did last year. That’s why I was happy to live here. I’ve always found people from other cultures to be the most amicable roommates I’ve ever had. There’s a fundamental principle where each roommate wants to understand the other one better, so people compromise a lot. You might not get that with two Americans. You have these expectations when you live with another American. With an international roommate, there is more tolerance for differences.

Q What have you learned or gained from this experience so far?

Then  This is the first time I have lived separate from my family. I have gained more independence and learned how to live — how to be on time, how to study by myself, how to manage my time. I think this is my big learning experience here. After a month, I became quite familiar with this place and all the places at OSU. Now I’m so confident when I go outside. I know where to go and where to get stuff and most importantly, how to get back to my room! The people over here surprised me too; in my country, they just say “Hi” to people they know, but here, people don’t even know each other and they still say “Hi” or “Hello” or “Nice to meet you.” That really impressed me.

Q What surprised you the most about your roommate?

David  Then is a man after my own heart. He likes to sing — very loudly — his own renditions of popular songs, which I like to do as well! It’s like having a little mockingbird in my room singing Shakira. I think it’s really great. It kind of surprised me, but I love it!

Then  The thing that surprised me the most is that he brought a life-sized Star Wars character (Darth Vader) into the room. I thought that was quite strange, but very interesting. Many people come into my room and say, “What?!” It’s become a conversation piece, a great way to meet people.

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