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International Students' Housing Experience
. . . having more chances to interact seemed to enhance
interpersonal relationships across different cultures, and programs
that facilitated spontaneous interactions such as a cultural dinner
seemed to be effective ways to increase interactions among
domestic and international students.
The cultural differences regarding etiquette and acceptable behaviors among roommates
seemed to contribute to participants feeling misunderstood and disrespected
(Sherry et al., 2009).
Another challenge that was discussed variantly was the differences and difficulties
in communication. Consistent with the findings of Antonio and Ofori-Dwumfuo
(2015), the participants discussed aspects such as cultural norms related to expression of
emotion, differences regarding direct communication, and feeling uncomfortable with
discussing behaviors that go against one's cultural norms. As Participant 3 explained,
Sometimes with verbal and nonverbal behaviors, we wouldn't understand [them]. They
are very emotional and [when] she is speaking her voice goes up and down, up and
down. So, when she has talked to her parents . . . I wouldn't know if she was fighting or . . .
I would tell her " I'm sorry it seemed like you were fighting. " And, she would be like " No, I
was just talking. "
Communication differences seemed to include nonverbal communications as well as
verbal communications; nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and tone of voice
vary a great deal depending on culture, which can create cultural misunderstanding
(Matsumoto et al., 2013).
Participants also variantly discussed language concerns related to proficiency in
English (such as feeling nervous and confused and being unfamiliar with slang). For
example, Participant 11 said, " Sometimes it's hard to understand English when they
speak fast. And I have to ask, could you say again? . . . But even though sometimes . . .
they say it again, I couldn't understand. " This finding highlights how international
students' difficulty articulating their thoughts in English may interfere with communication
and interaction with their roommates (Yao, 2014); even though living with a
native speaker roommate can facilitate international students learning English, it can
also be a source of stress.
Finally, the participants discussed the challenge of a lack of opportunities to get
closer with one another, such as not seeing each other because of different schedules.
For example, Participant 7 said, " Our plans and schedules are different . . . when I sleep,
they get up. And when I get up, they are sleeping, so . . . we don't have enough time to
talk. " It is difficult to feel interpersonal attraction and to form interpersonal relationships
if interactions with roommates are limited (i.e., mere exposure effect; Zajonc,
1968, p. 1). The positive relationship between exposure and interpersonal attraction and
relationships has been found across different cultures (Heine & Renshaw, 2002).
62 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

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