7 Reasons Why to Choose a Chinese Roommate
7 Reasons Why to Choose a Chinese Roommate
by Lenny Chen, TBC Chinese Roommate & Marketing Communications Intern
Have you decided to study abroad in China and are making plans on how to make the most of your semesters abroad? Are you excited but at the same time nervous about your upcoming new life in a country and culture that is perhaps completely different from your own? Do you want to build international friendships and connections during your time abroad but are afraid that it may prove difficult? A great answer to all these questions you are probably having right now is actually quite simple – you should choose to live with a Chinese roommate.
The Beijing Center (TBC) offers students the opportunity to live with a Chinese roommate. Chinese roommates are local students from TBC’s local host university UIBE, who are open-minded, resourceful individuals fluent in English. They are interviewed and selected by TBC’s Student Life department to make sure they will enrich your China experience. Living with a Chinese roommate during your semester abroad will be a fun adventure that comes with many perks, and here listed are a few:
1. You’ll have a great opportunity to practice your Chinese language skills whenever you like
Instead of only learning Chinese through textbooks in the classroom, you’ll have a chance to practice your Chinese with a native speaker who is always ready to talk to you. Most Chinese people will be thrilled that you are even learning their language at all and are never judgmental no matter how inexperienced you are with Chinese, so you are always comfortable speaking it however imperfectly.
2. You’ll learn about Chinese culture from a local’s perspective
From the outside looking in, you might find many aspects of Chinese culture to be curious and hard to explain. For example, why do so many cars here have Peppa Pig decal stickers? Why are all these old ladies dancing on the squares in front of the shopping malls? When you actually live in Beijing, you’ll have tons of questions about why certain people act a certain way, questions that, you might find yourself hesitant to ask people who you don’t know well. When you live with a Chinese roommate, you’ll have someone onto whom your inquisitive self can unload all the uncomfortable questions, and they will most likely return the favor by asking you questions on your culture. You’d be amazed how many interesting conclusions you’ll be able to draw from these discussions and that despite everything you see on the surface, how much Chinese and Western college students actually think alike!
3. You’ll have a much easier time getting acclimated to your new neighborhood
New to the country, new to the school, and new to the neighborhood, you might find yourself too timid to try out new things and end up dining at the same restaurant you went to on your first day. You’d probably panic when you have to talk to your hairdresser but don’t know how to communicate how you want your hair to look. These will all stop being a problem when you have a Chinese roommate. They’ll help you find the best restaurants not just near campus but in the entire city; they’ll help you talk to your barber, the bank – anything you need when you are getting settled in. If you are worried about overworking them, just buy them lunch to show your appreciation, and they’ll always be happy to help you.
4. You’ll have a plug into the school and local community
As a foreign student, one of the reasons participating in local events and getting involved in the local community can prove difficult is that often you don’t have a contact point since the people you usually are surrounded with are international students like yourself. But if you have a Chinese roommate, they can link you up with the most interesting student organizations and clubs you might want to be a part of. They’ll introduce you to their friends and take you to exciting events that are happening throughout the city, and they’ll explain the youth culture in Beijing and help you understand social cues and how people interact with each other. With their help, you will have a much easier time getting to know and becoming a part of a diverse and thriving local community.
5. You’ll have someone to help you navigate through Chinese technology
China has a booming tech and internet industry offering a plethora of phone apps with services that will make your life in Beijing so much easier. And as much as the providers try to make them more user-friendly to foreigners, because of the language barrier and unfamiliarity with the local tech ecosystem, sometimes you just won’t even know where to look. Having a Chinese roommate means having someone who will tell you not only the best apps you need but also the best ways to use them. For example, almost everyone knows the app Taobao, which is arguably the best app for online shopping as it has the largest active user base and therefore the most extensive inventory of goods, but many find them difficult to access since the shops are mostly in Chinese. However, few know that the Taobao app has a picture search feature and you can literally take a picture of someone on the street and find everything they are wearing on Taobao. This is an example of the kind of hacks that you most likely won’t know about unless you have a Chinese roommate to tell you about them!
6. You’ll have someone who knows the city to take care of you
Compared to most big cities, Beijing is measurably safer. But however unlikely they are, accidents are still a possibility and just in case they do happen, it’s reassuring to know you have someone who speaks native Chinese, knows how to deal with this kind of situations and who can respond on site if they are with you. If, for example, you get into an argument with someone because of some misunderstanding, chances are it can be quickly and peacefully resolved when there is someone who speaks the language fluently. Or if you ever get lost somewhere, or if it’s hard to get an Uber – usually because there are too many people around and the queue is too long – you can call up your roommate and they may be able to help and tell you how to get back.
7. Build meaningful long-lasting international friendships
The experience of rooming with someone from another country and has completely different life experiences than you is as unique and unforgettable for you as it is for your roommate. The fun and wonderfully awkward moments you have, the laughs and tears you go through together will make great and life-long memories that stick with you even as you leave and go return to your home country. Sometimes you’ll find yourselves spontaneously making a Facetime call to each other across the Pacific Ocean in the middle of the day to tell each other what’s been up. What’s more, many Chinese roommates themselves have plans to study abroad in the future and many students after a great semester in China decide to come back to either further their studies or work there, so chances are great that you will see each other again, and even, speaking from experience, sleep in each other’s house when they make a stop at your city for a short visit!