At the end of January, some of my friends and I had a mind battle over signing the new university village housing contract. All my American friends insist on getting independent rooms, while most international students are flexible on accepting shared rooms. For me, it was the simplest decision ever. I want shared rooms because they’re cheaper.
So why pay twice the price for an independent room? My American friend grinned and said, “We like independent rooms, because we have dirty little secrets.” Well, to be honest, who doesn’t? But the Asian lifestyle already prepped me for this – there are always too many people and too little space. In every university in Taiwan, everyone shares rooms.
My freshman year was spent in a Taiwanese university, and the experience I had gives me confidence that I can conquer any roommate problem. My dorm was located right by the thoroughfare of Taipei city, so the traffic was busy 24-7. Noise tolerance and insomnia, check. I also had a roommate who never did her laundry. Smell tolerance, check.
My other roommate would often buy a huge box of fruit and forget about it until it became moldy. Smell tolerance, promoted to an advanced level. Life in Asia is also 24-7, so people came back to the dorm at 3 a.m. and left at 5 a.m. Noise tolerance and insomnia, also updated to a new level.
I’ve seen all kinds of scenarios, in both Taiwan and America. Poor kitchen sanitation is always on display. That is always my first checkpoint. In the worst cases, girls have dishes piled up and trashcans overloaded, and guys have beer and coke bottles lining up along the counter. The thing I hate most is the tedious evidence of cooking—juices splattered around the oven, burn marks testifying to the terrible cooking process.
Now for the bathroom. I’ve been to an extremely meticulous guy’s bathroom, and it looked like a high-end hotel. I’ve seen girls’ piled up clothes, magazines, cosmetics, and textbooks inside. One easy way to improve, or create a pleasant environment view, is to pick the right shower curtain. Go for light color, simplicity and cuteness, or, if you insist on dark shadings, funkiness or coolness.
I guess the challenge comes when my Indian friend cooks her curry with special spices. It can be one of the two themes: heaven or hell. I have gotten both. Most of the time, I like the herbal richness and the boiling overture of mellowing vegetation: They surround me with the memory of home.
But one time the smell was so dense that it dragged me out from a dream. That’s something I’ll never forget. Though it never happened to me, make sure your roommate doesn’t come up with weird recipe experiments when you’re having midterms.
My dear editor asked, ”So, is tolerance the only answer that contributes to international students’ decision making?” For now, I’ll have to say yes. Asian students like me come from places much more densely populated; we grew up understanding that there is never enough space. But that doesn’t mean we have terrible hygiene! I learned to use space more efficiently, organize things better, and live perfectly without a special cabinet for stuffed animals. Living with other people also trained me to have a better temper and better negotiating skills. But one thing I am not satisfied with is that I never have enough room for my books. I sincerely wish I had my own library!
In the end, what I’m saying is that one can learn to deal with the inconveniences of sharing a room and having less space. Also, I won’t scrutinize what your apartment looks like, so please still invite me to your party. I’ll be happy, as long as I’m paying half the rent.