I can listen to his music, I can speak to him in English and I can improve my speaking skills. Those are the advantages of having an American roommate.
– Then Le Xan, UG Pathway Engineering student from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
It’s an incredible experience living with someone from another culture and learning about another culture.
– David Shumway, Biology student with a Pre-Med option from Tualatin, Oregon
In the International Living-Learning Center, students from across the globe are paired with American roommates creating a cosmopolitan feel. Students at the center have access to state-of-the-art academic spaces and stylish common areas with full kitchens on every floor, a grocery specializing in organic and ethnic foods and a Peet’s coffeehouse.
We asked a pair of roommates, David Shumway, of Tualatin, Ore., and Then Le Xan, of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, what they think of living in Oregon State University’s newest residence hall:
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 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.”
Why did you choose to come to OSU?
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 back during my winter break and looked at University of Oregon and OSU. I liked OSU a lot more! I liked the campus a lot, 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 OSU.”
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 OSU. … I chose the U.S. over the U.K. or Australia because I think the life in the US is more active and people are quite friendly.”
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 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.”
What have you learned or gained from this experience so far?
Then: “As an Asian student, 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 in 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.”
What surprised you the most about your roommate?
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.)”
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 mocking bird in my room singing Shakira! I think it’s really great. It kind of surprised me but I love it!”
Take a video tour of the ILLC:
Interview by Lindy Osborne (pictured at top, right). Story and photos by Nancy Raskauskas. Video by Warren Lawless.