When four walls fit five cultures: Cultural diversity in the LCC dorms

By Maryna Barysheva

Editor: Mariia Lysikova

JoAnn Klandrud talking about intercultural communication. Photo taken by Mykola Muzhytskyi

A home for approximately 50 nationalities, day after day, LCC campus experiences the beauty and struggle of cultural diversity.

LCC Residence Halls, a representation of the multicultural environment under the microscope, is a place where students from different backgrounds learn how to live together regardless of the ethnic tensions.

JoAnn Klandrud, an Intercultural education coordinator at LCC, noted that the main roots for culture-related conflicts in the dorm are the feeling of being left out because of language differences and misunderstanding the motivation behind another person’s behavior due to the clash of values.

“It is hard to maintain a sense of belonging when a big group of people speaks another language in the dorms,” said Klandrud.

“In this case, instead of positive communication, a student is likely to suffer from hurt feelings and cultural misunderstandings.”

Ledion Bezati, a second-year Communication student from Albania and current Resident Assistant of Neumann 3rd West, commented that the two difficulties of living under one roof with people from different cultures for him would be cleanliness and loud noise.

“We all have different perceptions of cleanliness and quietness which comes with its own challenges,”

Ledion Bezati

Lolita Peshcherova, a third-year Business student from Kazakhstan, agreed with Bezati, stressing tidiness as one of the primary roots for conflict.

“Another potential hardship, for me, is the perception of hospitality and personal space,” said Peshscherova. “While sharing is an integral part of my culture, other nationalities tend to have more boundaries.”

Half-Georgian, half-Ukrainian, Diana Diasamidze, a second-year International Relations and Development student, humorously noted that she still experiences cultural shock when her roommates put bread in the fridge, something which is uncommon in her native country.

Diana Diasamidze, Ukraine and Georgia, with her roommates Megi Laska, Albania, and Sumner Wadum, USA. Photo taken from Diana Diasamidze’s personal archive.

“On a more serious note, however, sometimes it can be difficult for me to explain my attitude toward something because of the cultural themes and distinctive patterns of thinking,” said Diasamidze.

Over the course of her studies at LCC, Donara Davtyan, a third-year Psychology student from Armenia, lived with people from nine different nationalities, including Iraq, Belarus, Ukraine, USA, Georgia, Albania, and others.

Donara Davtyan, Armenia, with her roommate Natalia Stasiuk, Ukraine. Photo taken from Donara Davtyan’s personal archive.

Instead of picking up on the differences, Davtyan suggested that the experience of living together with other cultures opened her eyes to all the similarities Armenia has with the rest of the world. 

“Interacting with people from other countries helps me get a drastically different lens of perspective on the situation - a point of view I would never think of myself,” noted Davtyan. 

Diasamidze supports Davtyan’s opinion, saying that daily communication with international friends doubtlessly broadens her outlook on the world. 

“I am lucky enough to have my roommates as my closest friends,” said Diasamidze. “That’s why I speak pretty good Albanian right now.”

For those who struggle to reach common terms for co-habitation, Bezati advised being open-minded, patient, and willing to learn from people coming from other cultures.

“It’s hard to understand people of diverse ethnic origins unless you share rooms with them,” said Davtyan. “Face your fears and take on the experience of living with someone who comes from a country you have never been to before. ”

According to Diasamidze, students should also be ready to change their mind and sacrifice some of the old habits to find a compromise.

Donara Davtyan, Armenia, sharing a meal with Reta Tamas, Iraq. Photo taken from Donara Davtyan’s personal archive.

“Effective communication is the key to building relationships,” said Diasamidze. “Consider cultural diversity not as a hindrance but an exciting novelty to explore.

Yet when the compromise seems hardly possible, students should reach out to people who are responsible for their safety before changing rooms as their only option to escape the conflict.

“Before moving out, consider talking to your RA or RD, since they are specifically trained to mediate conflict situations and help you resolve the issue on legal terms by referring to the roommate agreement,” said Bezati. 

Being aware of sensitive topics and specific cultural features is another way to improve intercultural communication. 

“Try to avoid candid discussions of politics, religion, and fundamental beliefs unless you are close friends,” suggested Peshcherova. “These topics can be not only offensive but also result in the conflict of interests.”

Klandrud also emphasized that LCC tries to help students adjust to the new environment by providing information and people-resources, ensuring cultural diversity among student leaders, and incorporating multicultural awareness as a part of educational outcomes in classrooms. 

“It is important to remember that we should celebrate our differences instead of judging them to have a positive cultural environment,” said Klandrud. 

Despite the potential struggles of sharing a room with students from diverse ethnic backgrounds, lessons learned throughout this experience can be truly fulfilling. 

If I could describe living in the dorm with one word, it would probably be eye-opening

JoAnn Klandrud

Frequently, cohabitation with people from around the globe leads to simple yet life-changing realizations. 

“No matter where we come from, our core values are all the same: we are all humans,” concluded Bezati.

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