Meeting the Chinese & Roommates
Developing friendships with locals can add significantly to your learning experience in China. Besides language practice, you can also gain insight into the local culture and society. Middlebury encourages you to meet and talk to local citizens. Building friendships with students can be a rewarding and insightful experience, and the School in China strongly encourages you to pursue such relationships.
One of the questions we are asked most frequently is how to go about meeting local students. Those of your predecessors who have been successful in this respect would say that the best approach is to find a group activity that includes local people: singing, calligraphy lessons, dancing lessons, biking, sports, volunteer work, etc. You will need some courage and a good deal of initiative. Results may not live up to your expectations, especially right away, and given the cultural differences between the US and China, your friendships with your Chinese peers may not be quite the same as your relationships with friends in the U.S. But if you are patient and open to relating to peers in a different cultural context with different social norms, you can still develop deep and life-long connections.
Keep in mind the strategies you would use at home to meet people you are interested in knowing: you try to be where they are, you try to share an interest or an activity that will bring you into contact with them, and you get to know people who know them. It goes without saying, if you have one or two Chinese-speaking acquaintances to start, it can only make things easier.
Living with Chinese Roommates
All students live with a Chinese roommate. Room assignments are made before student arrival. Having a Chinese roommate should be considered a privilege. Former students have found this experience to be one of their favorite aspects of the program. Both challenging and rewarding, living with a Chinese student gives you the opportunity to make local friends while simultaneously improving your language skills. Your roommate is not your teacher or your dictionary, though roommates are almost always happy to help you if you have a question about Chinese culture or your language studies. It is simply the daily interaction between you and your roommate that makes this living arrangement so productive for both sides.
There are lots of ways you can strengthen your relationship with your roommate, eating meals together is one. There are several cafeterias at each campus and all are convenient to the classrooms and dorm. When inviting your roommate to eat with you in a restaurant, please be aware that restaurant meals can be much more expensive than in cafeterias, and many Chinese students have limited funds.
Not all roommates become best friends, but many do. Should you encounter a problem in your relationship with your roommate, however, you are encouraged to try and work it out with him or her as you would if you encountered a problem with any other roommate. Talk things out, compromise, and try to be more sensitive to each other’s needs. If this does not work, your Assistant Director can help.