From Albania to Zimbabwe: Connecting with your roommate

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Hi! My name is Nitya Sudarshan from Mumbai, India. I will be writing about what Brown is like as an international student, and my many experiences that helped me make Brown my home really far away from home.

Two years ago, as an incoming freshman, once all the excitement of picking the right college for me and the end of high school had died down, the feeling of actually coming to Brown became real. A lot of the excitement turned in to apprehension. As an international student, I was insecure about being away from home, having a different accent and different food and eating habits. I knew that there was a good chance my roommate would be from the United States, and would definitely be from a different country.

My biggest fear, thus, was connecting to my roommate. I figured that to get along with my roommate, I would have to relate to her. I was afraid that since we grew up in different places, had different backgrounds, religions, customs, food that we ate, languages we spoke, movies we watched and music we listened to that my roommate and I would not be able to ‘connect’ with each other.

A roommate is someone who you live with, spend time with everyday and interact with. I feared not being to able communicate with the one person who would be with me throughout my first year at Brown.  On the day that we were to get our roommate assignments, the Class of 2019 Facebook group was buzzing with activity. This felt like my first real step in my life at Brown, and I did not want that to be a misstep.  I wanted to feel like my first connection to Brown felt natural and easy.

Eventually, I did find out that my roommate was indeed from the United States. We got in a conversation over Facebook, started to get to know each other, and found out when the other was arriving. My first meeting with my roommate was what convinced me that being international was only as big a deal as I made it. My roommate walked in to the room and warmly hugged me the first time she saw me. Our parents got in to a conversation about how much they would miss having their children at home while my roommate and I started talking about how stressful it was moving in and setting up and unpacking. We started talking about how we wanted to decorate the room and her father helped me put up things in my room – it all seemed so natural.

Now, I know that although there was a lot that was different about how we would approach our college experience, and how our background influenced college, there was also a lot that was similar – the hard work that had gotten us in to college, the fear about what classes to take, living away from home. In short, there was a lot that connected us. We were able to relate to each other, talk about these common uncertainties about college, and that eventually led to a friendship. My freshman year roommate became my first friend at Brown. The fact that I was from a different country actually became a point of conversation – we were interested and intrigued, not distant because of the different places that we came from.

If you have any questions, comments or thoughts,  feel free to reach out to me at nitya_sudarshan@brown.edu

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