Living and Learning Across Cultures

Illinois Wesleyan University is proud to host over 100 International students representing countries around the world. Most international students request an American roommate because they desire to grow in their language and cultural development. For domestic students, living with an international student provides a unique opportunity to share one's own traditions and values, while learning about those of another. 

The Office of Residential Life and the International Office have collaborated to create a safer and more inclusive residential learning environment on campus by assisting students with requests to be matched with an international roommate.  

Those interested in participating in the International Roommate Matching Service must complete an International roommate matching survey in addition to the IWU Housing Contract and the roommate matching questionnaire.  

Click here to complete the
International Roommate Matching Survey

 Students at I-House fix a cultural meal

Housing and roommate considerations for roommates of International students

Sharing your residence hall room with an international student presents a variety of opportunities and challenges. Most importantly, you and the international student will be exchanging customs and sharing a living space. This can lead to an incredible learning experience as well as potential confrontations or miscommunications.

The international student has to consider travel, studying in a new country, possibly developing English speaking skills, and more. Your role is to be a supportive host and friend for this student; it is therefore your responsibility to make the international student feel welcome in general and as a roommate.

Do some research

Before the international student arrives, IWU will provide you with his or her contact information as well as his or her country of origin. As the host, you are obliged to do a bit of research about the international student's country of origin. Pay special attention to customs, sensitive topics, or cultural concerns.

Many Asian cultures, for example, emphasize respect. To make an Asian student feel welcome, you should take special care respect his or her privacy and belongings. Many cultural nuances will take time to learn, but you should have a basic understanding of main cultural differences.

If you are given an email or snail mail address, promptly contact the international student and introduce yourself. Be sure to discuss regular roommate issues such as food allergies, who brings what item, etc.

Use food to promote cultural exchange

Sharing food is a simple way to learn about another culture. When your international friend arrives, you should share a meal and express an interest in learning about the cuisine from the student's country of origin. Be sure to learn about and observe polite table manners and also expect to tactfully guide the international student in the customs of your own country.

Discuss house rules and boundaries

All roommates should have this initial discuss, but it is particularly important when there is a greater potential for cultural misunderstandings. Discuss what items can be shared, party rules, volume of music, privacy, and more. Some cultures take great time and care in preparing and eating a meal. While this is easy to respect, it can get very frustrating to a roommate wanting to use the kitchen table for a study group or for someone planning to bake a birthday cake.

Offer assistance

Your school, campus, and town will be completely new to your new roommate. Offer to show him or her around. Be sure to show the international student the library, hospital, police station, gym, post office, and campus service areas. Also, explain how to dial emergency services in your area or on campus as 911 is not an international emergency dial code.

Utilize IWU's resources

IWU offers support to you and your international roommate, making sure that your new roommate feels welcomed and at home. If you have any questions or concerns, do not be afraid to contact the International Office.

If complications arise, make sure to take the time to try and talk them out. Work through differences in a calm and understanding manner if possible. Understand that social and gender roles vary from culture to culture, and expect to learn and tolerate differences in these roles when you are living with an international student.