When people of different cultures meet, they may have difficulty understanding each other because of differences in lifestyle, values, and even languages. That is why it is a useful experience to get to know better people from a different culture and see how similar and different they are from you. I did this when I interviewed two students at Boise State University Tillman and Carrie. Although Tillman and Carrie represent Western culture and I represent Eastern culture, I found out that we were able to speak the same language.
Before starting the interview, I felt shy. I didn’t know how I could start this conversation. Tillman and Carrie were at the class when I asked them to go out of the class for an interview. We started looking for a table near to class and found one, but some people sat there. Tillman told, “Guys, let’s sit next to the classroom, on the floor.” Amazingly, that was what we did. Then, we began our interviews. As we were talking, people repeatedly walked through our conversation in the hallway. Here I need to say a couple of words about Tillman and Carrie. Tillman is a white male. He is tall and with black hair. Tillman is from Texas, specifically from the Dallas area. As for Carrie, she is female. She has golden hair and blue eyes. She is tall and beautiful and looks like Romarey Ventura, a girl famous in the social media. Carrie is from Boise and her major is Mechanical Engineering.
Since I was shy to ask questions because I am an international student and I was worried about my English, Carrie was so kind that she started asking me first. Carrie began to ask me about music. She said, “What kind of music do you like to listen to?” I said, “Carrie, I prefer relaxing music or Arabic singing.” Then, Tillman took turn. He asked me about sport and what kind of sport is famous in my country. I replied that I love soccer because it is a favorite pastime in my country: a lot of people in Kuwait like to watch or play soccer. I said, “Tillman, soccer for Kuwaiti is just as interesting as football for Americans.” This question sparked off Carrie’s interest and the girl asked me, “Is it different here and in your country?” I replied, “Carrie, the game is actually the same, but my countrymen like soccer more.” I gave them an example that when someone’s team loses a match he will be crying. I told her that I was in a club and that I have played with the club for 10 years.
Then, we started talking about travelling. Carrie asked me about travelling and why I like to travel alone? I said travel is something essential in my life because I like to see new places and meet new cultures. I said with a smile, “You know, I like to travel alone because I want to relax. I don’t really need someone ask me where I am going or why I want to do this or that.” I travel to many countries to see weather and people in these places and learn something I don’t see in my country. Carrie also asked me, “How many countries have you visited? I said proudly, “I’ve visited between 8 and 10 countries overall.”
When Carrie finished I wanted to ask her and Tillman some questions, but Tillman stepped in and asked me his questions. He asked me, “What is the favorite book you have read?” I said, “I liked reading poems by Almutanabi or my roommate’s poems. My roommate writes poems and I like to read them; and I like to read history.” After that, he asked me about watching movies and what kind of movies I liked. I said I liked American movies for two reasons: to practice English and look for what is different between American and Arabic movies.
After Carrie and Tillman had asked me all their questions, it was my turn. However, I was shy to tell them I had questions. I was so grateful to Carrie that she helped me out when she asked, “Don’t you have questions for us?” I said, “Sure!” I asked Carrie and Tillman what they thought about Kuwaiti students in Boise? They agreed that the Kuwaiti student choose hard majors, and a lot of them choose Engineering. Carrie said that Kuwaiti students drive nice cars. She also rightfully noted that Kuwaiti guys like to hang out with each other. When Carrie said this I was so happy to hear her words, because I felt excited that some people see us like family because we hang out with each other and we eat out with each other.
Then I asked my interviewees, “What the hard part about being a student here is?” They have different but still similar answers. Carrie said, “It’s very different from high school because there is more freedom and a lot of hard homework.” She also said, “It’s very nice to live on campus because my class is really close to my little room.” Tillman also found it different but for another reason. He said, “I was in online high school and was studying via his computer, yet here I have to go to class and show up to classes.” He added, “That is the hard part for me.” When Tillman said he was in online high school, I was surprised because in my country I don’t know anyone in online high schools. Maybe, we simply don’t have it in my country. So I say: different but still very, very similar.
The last question I asked Tillman and Carrie was whether it was hard to understand international students. They said some people couldn’t understand what they say because they find it hard to understand, but with a lot of them, Americans understand what they want. Carrie gave one example for her friend Kalian. Although he is a native English speaker from New Zealand, she can’t understand him because he has a hard accent. Just as she can’t understand his accent, she asks him to repeat. She said, “Sometime if he wants something, he repeats it for several times so that he could get what he wants.”
There were some other things that we talked about out cultures, but the main conclusion that I drew from this interview was as follows. It does not matter that we have different tastes in music, sport, reading, and movies. What matters is that we are human and share similar human values. If I felt shy to ask, Carrie saw this and did not stand apart. She encouraged me to speak. If Tillman wanted to speak first, I allowed him to ask me. We are all humans and, even though we have different cultures, we have this very important similarity.