Through the Eyes of Our Rommates

The Global UGRAD Program is a transformative experience not only for its participants but also for their roommates. Read on to learn the heartwarming story of how two roommates became more than friends – they became family. As a testament of this friendship, they filmed a music video together. Take a few minutes to watch – it’s entertaining, to say the least!

Elizabeth Hodgson’s Perspective

Sibo and Elizabeth on campus enjoying the summer weather

I learned so much from having an international roommate, and the experience was one I shall carry with me for the rest of my life.  Not only did I make a friend, but I also learned about life and living in a country other than my own. This broadened my world perspective and gave me insight into a culture with different traditions and approaches to everyday living as well as political viewpoints and educational aspirations which are different from my own. Living in such close proximity as a dorm room with someone completely different from me was at first a bit intimidating and uncomfortable, but this immersion was truly the key to experiencing and opening up to respecting the differences we each found in each other as well as finding common ground. We studied together, we exercised together, we shopped together, we socialized together, and we ate together. The residence halls provided the venue so that this could all be done. In addition, it offered a place where others could gather with us and share in the expansion of our vision beyond our traditional routines. There is no doubt that this experience was an experience of a lifetime. Having an international roommate was something I always wanted. My family has traveled the world and my grandfather came from Europe. He instilled in his family the desire to learn about other cultures and the many great people that make up the world. My roommate, Sibongile, was one of the most extraordinary women I was fortunate enough to meet and get to know enough to call not merely my friend, but my family. Not only did she open my eyes to her own unique culture, she also introduced me to many of the other international students who I now also see as a family. This experience has unlocked new doors for me and has inspired me to continue learning about other cultures as well as engage in a study abroad program for myself.

Sibongile Hokonya’s Perspective

Sibo and Elizabeth volunteering at Bollywood night

When I was accepted to be a participant in the Global UGRAD Program, I imagined what it was going to be like. I then realized that it was going to be a new and perhaps terrifying experience. I prayed for a good roommate, with a big heart, who would make me feel welcome in the USA. Guess what: God gave me exactly that and more!

I arrived at Carroll College in the St. Charles residence hall, my home for the time I was in the USA, without any knowledge of where I would start. When I got to my room, my bed was made and everything in order for me to just put my stuff! “Wow! What an angel I am living with her”, I thought to myself. One thing I can say for sure is that I wasn’t wrong about her, she is indeed an angel. The next day she drove me to a very nice restaurant and bought me breakfast! That was just the beginning of the time of my life.

“What if you had a different roommate?” was the question we always asked each other from time to time. We never got to answer it but as I am now looking back, I’m realizing how blessed I am to have a sister and friend like Lizzy, I cherish the time we were roommates. She was and still is the perfect match for me. My favorite part about living with Elizabeth (although sometimes I was too lazy to do it) was making music videos, which captured all the moments and feelings just perfectly.

Living in St. Charles Hall was amazing! The girls there were always smiling, willing to hang out and because of that I made very good friends. I also enjoyed the time Elizabeth and I spent with other international students. One thing I’m proud of is that I was able to inspire other ladies to step out of their comfort zone and study abroad! In Elizabeth I found a young sister I never had, a friend, encourager, and role model. I can confidently pick up my phone at any time and call her to talk about nothing. I am now motivated to learn the piano (one thing I have procrastinated for a long time), visit America again, and to travel abroad more! Looking forward to more adventures with her, a trip to Madagascar being the first!

She was there to help me figure out everything, from my class schedule to dealing with culture shock, getting different food when I couldn’t eat, saying thank you the American way, dressing up, working out in the gym, everything! I can write a whole book about all the amazing things Elizabeth did for me. She was by my side when I felt like giving up; when classes and adjusting were hard, her encouragements kept me going. Being roommates with her opened my eyes to diversity. I was able to share my culture, learn a lot about the American culture and lifestyle, and on top of that, a whole lot of positive energy was added to my life.

Sibo and Elizabeth in nature during the Thanksgiving break.

Whenever she left the room, she would always write a note to inform me when she will be back and from there I learned accountability. Being a double major in Chemistry and French, also taking an orchestra class, was not an easy task for her but she was always looking for ways to be better. I observed and learned what it means to work hard. Even with all the work, she always had time for her family, friends, and to listen to my problems. That taught me love and prioritization! She took me to her house for Thanksgiving, where I learned good reception and how to cut an American turkey. Overall, I learned independence and to do good deeds without expecting anything in return.

Written by Sibongile Hokonya (Global UGRAD Zimbabwe) and Elizabeth Hodgson at Carroll College