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Roommates experience diversity in residence halls


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Justen McMahan

Making living arrangements can be a daunting task for incoming freshmen. There is an uncertainty about being away from home for the first time, whether the student will be able to make friends, and ultimately, learning how to adapt to living with a roommate.

If students choose to live in one of the many on-campus residence halls, they can be matched with a roommate based on their interests, habits and schedule, but not race or ethnicity.

This provides students with a new and unique way to experience other cultures, many for the very first time.

“This was my first real experience living with someone from a different culture,” said Gabriel Nkemeh, a UA freshman. “I really didn’t know anyone when I came here, but I was just hoping for someone who was respectful and tolerant, and I definitely got that.”

Although Nkemeh’s roommate is Caucasian, the two put no emphasis on each other’s race.

“We have different hobbies and even different religions, but we don’t expect each other to change or let it get in the way,” said Nkemeh.

Not only were the two able to integrate their lifestyles, they were able to integrate their own groups of friends.

“We always would introduce each other to different people we met at school; I even have met some of his friends from high school,” said Nkemeh. “We have a lot of mutual friends now.”

When asked whether or not having a roommate of a different ethnicity was a positive experience, Nkemeh felt strongly about his answer.

“Definitely; to be honest, I didn’t place any emphasis on what the race of my roommate would be, just that he was respectful,” Nkemeh said.

The University of Akron, however, has been putting an emphasis on diversity on their campus. According to The University of Akron’s website, minorities made up nearly 27 percent of students that enrolled this past fall. The university plans to greatly increase that number under their Vision2020 plan.

So what are the benefits of diversity on campus?

“It helps you learn and open a line of communication with your future colleagues,” said Adam Blackburn, an engineering major at UA. “We need to work on understanding different cultures so we can work hand-in-hand with them out in the work force.”

Blackburn was paired with an African American roommate in Grant Residence Hall, and has learned a lot from his experience.

“The biggest thing is that we remember we’re all just people,” he said. “I enjoyed getting to know my roommate for who he was; he had interesting perspectives on a lot of things.”

Overall, The University of Akron is continuing to strive towards diversity awareness and providing its students with chances to further engage in issues and areas of diversity. According to UA students such as Blackburn and Nkemeh, the university is headed in the right direction.

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