So I just realized that I haven’t really talked about my living situation while I’m studying abroad and it occurred to me – super late in the game, as per the usual – that other students might be interested in this. So here’s the situation: I’m living in an apartment with four other kids my age or around it. My roommate is a girl from a different college who I had no interaction with before I met her at the welcome dinner my very first night in Prague. All I did was fill out a short application about my preferences – whether I’m clean or not, how late I stay up, etc. – and boom! they matched me. All in all I’d say they did a pretty good job too – we chat, laugh and go out together all the time. As for my other roommates, two of them are also in the CET program. They’re both guys, which, I will admit, is interesting. I said in my application that I was okay with mixed gender housing because I thought it would be cool to get to know some of the guys in the program – I tend to befriend way more girls and I wanted to shake things up a little. Honestly, some unforeseen awkward moments have come up. For one thing, I didn’t realize we don’t have dryers so we have to hang all of our laundry on racks to dry overnight and that means having all of my underwear out for people to see and judge. But surprisingly enough, there haven’t really been that many awkward situations. No one’s walked in on anyone naked or anything like that – although one of the guys did walk in while I was partially naked (but don’t panic, he has a girlfriend). So all in all things have turned out for the better. Then we have a fifth roommate, a Czech “buddy” who lives with us in a single and is supposed to help us acclimate to Czech culture and language. He’s a little bit of a wild-card, sometimes alright, sometimes painfully socially awkward/inappropriate. But honestly you could be like that whatever gender you are so, like I said, an overall good experience.
Now there’s a few things I want to talk about in particular when it comes to roommates. You can have good roommates, bad roommates, and roommates that might as well be Satan’s spawn but no matter what, you always learn something from everyone that you live with.
So, in a slight change of pace, here are a couple of things I learned from my roommate, Bill.
One of the tidbits I learned from him was how important it is to know a little bit of everything. Bill always seemed to have some story or another about an interesting article he had read or a scintillating discussion he had had with some obscure underground trap artist, DJ or the like. Not only that but he always managed to drop these little tidbits into conversation in such a way that the conversation was always dynamic, taking twists and turns that you didn’t expect. That might not seem like much, but nothing’s worse than a stagnant conversation that stays on one topic for so long even bystanders get tired of hearing you talk about it. So Bill advice #1: dabble in a little of everything. When it comes to the intellectual stuff, you don’t have to go too deep but make sure you explore a little. Keep your mind open for new experiences, even ones you don’t think you’ll be interested in because you’ll never know if that knowledge you’ve gained won’t make a great conversation starter farther down the road.
Another tidbit I learned from Bill: it’s all about the delivery. Two people can give you the exact same interesting tidbit of a story or fact they learned in vastly different ways and there’s a fine line between sharing information you’ve picked up in a way that seems genuine and coming off as a know-it-all.
The trick, like I said, is all in the delivery. I think Bill’s biggest problem was his tendency to give unsolicited little facts. It wasn’t really that he would volunteer this stuff – even though, in the right context, that can be really annoying too – but that whatever he said didn’t really address the issue or topic at hand. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, imagine that feeling you get when you’re talking with your friend about that pop artist you guys love so much and your roommate comes in and proceeds to derail the conversation by telling you why their favorite hip hop artist is better. Which brings me to my next point: knowledge is not a competition. If you don’t want to come off wrong, share your information rather than making the conversation a platform to demonstrate how much you know. You have to want to genuinely interest people, get them talking, and encourage them to share what they know too. That’s the only way I know of that will take that extra bit of loftiness out of your words. And if I sound salty, it’s probably because I am.
But honestly, I know that when it comes to tidbits I’m learning more positive than negative from Bill. It’s pretty inspiring to meet someone who is a natural wealth of information; it makes you want to go on the Internet and start educating yourself about current events or quantum theories or what have you. It’s good to have someone like Bill around too, especially when you’re feeling too lazy to do your own research into a topic (or too lazy to actually watch all of those documentaries and TED talks you’ve stacked up). I want to have someone that challenges me, inspires me to learn more, and not just for a grade but outside the classroom setting. I’m about to try delving into the world of popular science and I’d be lying if I said Bill didn’t have anything to do with that.
So there’s the good and bad of the matter, or at least how I see it. If you’re planning on studying abroad, and it’s not too far outside of your comfort zone, I really do encourage you to think about mixed gender housing. It’s an interesting experience I think more people should have. Just a disclaimer though: guys can be pretty gross sometimes.
And here’s a parting fact brought to you by Bill: Gravity and time are planes. But maybe also dimensions…?
Don’t ask me what that means or even if it’s true because I have no idea.