Moving In as a Minority Student

Moving into your first dorm can be such an exciting experience. You are finally moving away from your parents for probably the first time in your life. Dorm living comes with new experiences, new responsibilities and most importantly, new people. In the first year, some people get to live in a double or triple room, where they share a room with one or two other people. For some people, they know their roommates, but for most, these are people that they have never met before. This part can cause the most stress and anxiety during your first year of dorm living. Some roommates become best friends right off the bat. Other roommates start out slow, not really getting to know each other but later, eventually become friends. Others may barely speak two words to each other. Whichever the experience is, living with people you have never met is a new and exciting journey for all.

Differing backgrounds and cultures are all meshing together in a living space for, possibly, the first time in some of these roommates’ lives. For some minority students, living with new people may be met with hard challenges they have never experienced before. Certain topics such as cultural traditions, languages, or even something as small as shower length may be a topic of deep discussions for roommates. For some African American girls, hair is a big deal because it might differ greatly from their other non-black roommates. The washing, straightening, braids, wigs, weaves, etc. can all be topics of question for other roommates. While the questioning isn’t necessarily a bad thing, people are simply curious, it may be hard for a black girl to explain to others why her hair washing is such a long practice or why her hairstyle changes so often. For most, they may have never had to explain this about themselves in their lives, or had people question it; but, when living in such close quarters with someone, the question is bound to arise sometimes.

                                                                      NAMI

For minority students who speak different languages, this also may pose a lot of questions from roommates where English is their only language. Small questions such as when their roommate learned the language and why they don’t study the language are seemingly harmless but can become uncomfortable for the roommate to answer. Also, certain words may have more or less significance in meaning for some cultures than others. Some cultures view “shut up” or “stupid” as inappropriate language, while others brush it off because the meaning is not as serious. Finding a way to accommodate everyone's feelings and differences in these roommate relationships can be hard, especially because most everyone is not out to intentionally hurt or make someone uncomfortable. The questions are usually simple, out of curiosity, people learn this way; but, for someone who has never encountered these questions, this can make the living environment uncomfortable and an even hostile place. It is important to remember that we are all learning and experiencing new things.

Going to a college that values diversity and doesn't place people in categories is a great opportunity and experience. Learning and adapting to these experiences are also great life lessons that we can use for the rest of our lives.