About three weeks before moving to Idaho for an internship I still had no housing and no roommate. At the same time Lin showed up- and after meeting once, for five minutes, we decided we could probably be OK enough friends to split rent for three months. I didn’t know then that living together would lead to many discussions on Chinese and American politics and culture, listening to Asian pop music A LOT, actually working out consistently for the first time since high school and a lifelong friend.
In a world where cultural differences are increasingly feared, I wanted to share with you a bit of the wisdom that I was able to gain from my opposite-from-me but much-better-person-than-me roommate:
Me: “So start from the beginning and give a little background about yourself.”
Lin: “I was born and grew up in Shanghai (China) and lived there for 17 years, then moved to Japan for school and was there for four years. I then went on an LDS mission to Sydney, Australia for a year and a half. Afterwards I went back to Shanghai to work and decided to move to the States for school (BYU).”
Me: “What was it like for you to move from culture to culture? And how did that help you become the person you are today?”
Lin: “Well, I always wanted to be a traveler. I wanted to go to different places and experience different cultures. To me, it’s not very difficult, because every time I go to another culture I get very excited. I want to learn about all the differences.
Also, I am now more adaptable and feel like I can survive wherever I go. No matter where I go I know I don’t have to be afraid and that I can do well and succeed.”
Me: “Yeah, I feel the same way. There is always good AND bad though, so what parts about moving around was hard for you?”
Lin: “I liked that I could make different friends and adapt different parts of the culture into my life, but moving was hard because you have to say goodbye to those friends you have made.”
Me: “Yeah definitely, you meet a lot of good people who help you grow and change. I feel like recently people have been developing a fear of those different from them, from other places or way of life. How do you think people can be more open minded?”
Lin: “It would be difficult if you only grew up in one culture and raised one way. Traveling definitely helps, but really anything that puts you in a new situation where you have to learn to accept something different. Everyone should experience that.”
Me: “If you could go back and talk to the person you were before you had all of those experiences, what advice would you give yourself?”
Lin: “Mmm… don’t be afraid to do the things that you are not comfortable with. Always do hard things. If you feel like something is not in your comfort zone then you should do it.
Me: “So usually if you have advice for your past self it is because you had an experience where that advice would have been helpful. Is there a particular personal experience you can share?”
Lin: “Yeah. I feel like I tend to stay in a place where I am comfortable. However, in the past couple of years, every time where I have an opportunity to do something that I am afraid to do then I tell myself that I really need to do it. Every time I do it, and overcome the fear, I learn a lesson. I know afterwards that if I had never tried or done something I was afraid of I never would have learned that lesson.”
Me: “That’s easier said than done! But I agree with you. What has helped you move past those fears?”
Lin: “The first thing, is that if other people have done it, then I know I can too. The second is taking it step by step. For example, if I have a hard time talking to people I don’t know I will practice every day talking to a new person. You have to learn the new process or way of doing something.”
Me: “Doing this, overcoming fears, and going forward in your life, what do you want to accomplish?”
Lin: “I want to use my skills- like easily adapting to other cultures and understanding people from other backgrounds- and work in an environment where I can travel and do business internationally.”
Me: “So just for kicks… and because I never know how to end an interview.. What is one weird thing that you do?”
Lin: “Ha! You would know better than me!”
Me: “Well, you do fall asleep to music. REALLY loud music. Every, single, night.”
Lin: “Okay, yeah, that’s true. I have this ‘gift’ that I can fall asleep anywhere, in any condition, in three seconds. But that’s not weird right?”
So if a born and bred American girl and a born and raised Chinese girl can appreciate each others differences as roommates and friends, you can go out today and be a little more understanding of someone of a different religion, race, nationality or opinion and make the world a little bit of a more peaceful place.
And thank you, Lin, for a great summer.
By Harly Richards