Through the Eyes of Our Roommates

The Global UGRAD Program is a transformative experience not only for its participants, but also for their roommates. Read on to learn more about how living with a Global UGRAD has impacted their lives!

The roommate of Be Moua, Lewis-Clark State College:

Be and I have been roommates for about eight months. Be is from Laos, and I am from Grangeville, Idaho. I had no idea about Laos before meeting Be. I learned that fast food is not popular in Laos; Lao people prefer cooking by themselves to eating outside. Additionally, Be told me that it never snows in Laos. I learned that in some big families, many of their children do not go to school because of financial problems. When many do not go to school, they might not know much about law, or even to follow the law. For example, many Lao people go hunting without paying taxes and out of season. Be also told me about some of Lao history, such as the Vietnam War. Laos was involved in the war, which is why a lot of Asian people immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. Life in a dormitory in Lao high schools and universities is completely different from what we have here. Be had to share a room with seven guys for more than five years all in the same room. Here in the U.S. we have separate rooms.

We’ve helped each other out when needed. For example, I drove Be to a test center in Moscow, Idaho, which is about one hour away from Lewiston. Another example was teaching Be how to stay warm and dry in the winter. In doing so, I offered Be some warm clothes to stay warm. I also showed Be how to play with snow. One time, when snowmobiling, the snowmobile got stuck in the snow, and we helped each other to get the snowmobile out from the snow bank. At the beginning of Be’s first month, I also taught Be how to use a microwave, a washing machine and a vacuum.

In Be’s Words: Ben’s family is a great example for me to know about American families. They care about their own family members a lot. For instance, they always give hugs and saying good night to each other every single evening before going to bed. Even though it is not common in Laos, I think it is great to do so. Thus, I will try to do as I learned from them to my home family. I also learned about American farms. Even if it was only a couple days being with them, I knew how to feed their chickens.

The Roommate of Sorita Heng – Ball State University:

I knew that I would get along with Sorita as soon as she walked through the door. It was late, and I was in my pajamas and a face mask when the door opened and I got my first look at my new roommate. I had only read her name and Cambodian nationality in an email. I had never met anyone from Cambodia. But as she walked through the door, after we quickly sized each other up, I felt an instant warmth between us. We talked and talked until late that night.

A week later, after having been keeping up with a decent bed time, we both got into our beds and with the lights off, she said to me out of the blue, “What is the deal with women going tanning? I don’t get it.” Instantly I laughed because tanning is dangerous, yet we all know a woman that pays to sit under a harsh light. It is dangerous and frivolous, but it is a part of our culture. Then I remembered reading about women in Asia bleaching their skin and how shocking that was to me. Bleach! So I brought this up to Sorita and we stayed up until one or two in the morning talking about beauty ideals in our cultures. When we finally fell asleep, my last thought was, “I think this roommate and I will become friends.”

When spring break rolled around, I talked Sorita into coming to my home in California. We had so much fun. We went to Cambodia Town in Long Beach, California. I got to experience her favorite foods. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had. It was great watching Sorita’s face light up eating the soup and rice. I loved the food as well and it is one of my favorite experiences. I never would have made it to Cambodia Town without having a Cambodian roommate.

Not only did I experience Cambodian culture through one Cambodian, but this one Cambodian has me convinced that one day I will travel to Cambodia. I want to visit with elephants, eat homemade kako soup, and eat happy pizza along the water.

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