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learning each other's native non-English languages. For example, Participant 9 said, " My
roommates, two of them are from foreign countries . . . and their English is very good.
So, it's a kind of motivation for me . . . I want to be like them. " Residence halls provide
a unique and important venue for practicing language because they allow international
students to learn language in a casual and unstructured setting, which is an essential part
of language learning (Bahrani et al., 2014; Rogers, 2004).
Finally, participants also typically discussed receiving support as a benefit of living
with roommates from a different culture. Within this category, they discussed getting
social support, such as help with homesickness, from their roommates and assistance
with everyday activities such as using credit cards. Participant 3 said, " We were both
away from home, and we were very understanding [of] one another's psychological
needs when it comes to homesickness. " Receiving support from roommates may be
especially helpful for international students, who are likely to experience problems
related to cultural adjustment and cultural shock and to feel frustrated, confused, and
helpless (Sim et al., 2010; Winkelman, 1994).
Challenges of Multicultural Living-Learning Communities
Participants typically talked about lifestyle and cultural differences as a challenge in
living with roommates from different cultures. While some of the lifestyle differences
could come up in any roommate situation (cleanliness and noise levels), others were
more directly related to culture (different religious practices or orientation to time). For
example, Participant 9 said,
These days we always fight and argue about temperature . . . one girl is from Africa . . . is
very sensitive for cold . . . she wants to turn on the heater always, but the other two girls
don't like the hotness so we . . . they always . . . said [to] turn off.
Lifestyles including energy consumption behavior vary across different countries,
influenced by factors such as sociocultural norms and policies in different countries
(Lenzen et al., 2006).
Aligned with research by Sherry and colleagues (2009), it was also typical for participants
to discuss the challenge of lack of respect, awareness of, and openness to different
individuals or cultures. In this regard, their responses focused on such behavior
as being asked intrusive questions or having to tolerate unwelcome guests in their
rooms. For example, Participant 15 affirmed,
It's just sometimes her boyfriend is in [our] room . . . one day he just wore underwear
and just went around my room. That made me a little annoyed. I could hear the sounds. I
could not sleep that day. . . . I talked to my roommate the other day . . . she said like
" Oh, why does it matter? "
. . . higher levels of social support were associated with better
cross-cultural adjustment for international students.
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