Roommates: An Opportunity to Explore Cultures
Oh, Lord. She is going to shoot herself in the foot and hate America, and it will be my fault…
My first roommate in college was a foreign exchange student from Seoul, South Korea, and at that moment, she stood in front of me with a .22 rifle in hand. What had started out as a normal visit home with my roommate had turned into a shooting lesson.
My dad hovered over her, talking in a calm, relaxed voice that comes with teaching gun safety for over 40 years. My roommate hung on to my dad’s every word and looked at the gun in her hands as if it were a stick of dynamite. All I could do was chew on my fingernails and take pictures.
My dad calmly explained how to look through the sights and how to cock the gun. He walked her through the mechanics of how guns work using expanding gas and gunpowder. With a nod, he told her to let it rip. I put my fingers in my ears.
This is it. Something will surely go wrong and she will surely hate America now.
After 30 seconds that seemed like a lifetime, I heard the distinct POP of a .22, followed by my roommate’s shriek. She apparently did not know what my dad meant by “recoiling.”
Did it scare her? Is she having fun? Will she want to shoot the gun again? Is she judging us quietly? Does she hate America?
“That was so fun!” she said. Her eyes were bright and her laugh was genuine. Relieved, I laughed with her and told her to try again, this time without jumping.
My roommate had several other firsts during that weekend, including “cubing” the cows, throwing a football, and drinking a famous Rollie’s cherry limeade. Shooting the .22 was probably the most memorable moment of our trip, although to my brother and me, it was just another afternoon spent with my dad. He really knows how to leave an impression.
The weekend was like a production. It was like a low-budget Western movie with no bad guy, no plot and no John Wayne. Instead, we pointed out oddities on the side of the road, explained how farmers like my grandparents make their money, and took her through the back roads every chance we could. We told her how we survive being 30 minutes away from a Walmart and from a hospital – something I never considered a big deal until I moved to San Angelo and could go to HEB any time I pleased.
In one weekend, my family tried our best to give my roommate the ultimate small-town American experience. It was the least we could do, since she spent two semesters giving me the ultimate Korean experience.
Since that weekend, I stopped worrying about whether or not my roommate hates America. After she emptied the clip on the gun (she was a natural) and we went back inside the house, she thanked my dad and me for the new experience. I liked her style of thinking. No matter what she faced here during her stay, she treated it as an adventure.
I realized then that adjusting to the college life would be easier if I adopted my roommate’s mindset and treated everything like an adventure. Just like my roommate who went from having never before touched a gun to being a sharpshooter, I opened up my mind to the possibilities awaiting me at college, and I learned about the world around me.
Getting to experience my roommate’s culture has been such an adventure. I have eaten rice cakes that looked like Nerfgun darts, seaweed paper, and pancakes that would make IHOP go out of business. I have learned how to spell my name and how to say hello in Korean. (Don’t ask me how to say anything else, though.) Overall, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.
Pearl of Wisdom: If you find yourself in a position where you have a roommate who belongs to a different culture, I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity. Not everyone gets the chance to learn about a new culture and to share his or her own culture with someone from across the globe.