At university, nothing beats good roommates | Duke Kunshan University

At university, nothing beats good roommates

DKU roommates Kaixi Cao and Qi Guo

The best thing about life at university is that you have a bright future ahead of you and your best friends by your side. In university, students improve themselves and make friends who support each other. Duke Kunshan is home to outstanding students from all over the world. Some are academic high-flyers, others are talented in the arts, some have excellent independent living skills and some have gained rich experience through internships and extracurricular activities. On campus, students embrace the diverse world with an open and inclusive mindset, and build strong and lasting friendships while pursuing excellence.

Roommate story #1

Krista McJarrow-Keller and Qingyuan Zhang: An amazing culture clash between a New Zealander and a Beijinger

Krista McJarrow-Keller and Qingyuan Zhang
Krista (left) and Qingyuan

Krista McJarrow-Keller from New Zealand and Qingyuan Zhang from Beijing are like summer and autumn, north and south. They have different life habits, interests and cultural backgrounds, but magically they find harmony in getting along.

“After becoming roommate with Krista, I realized that cultural differences were simply everywhere," said Qingyuan. “The things that one takes for granted are surprises to the other from a different culture.”

She admires her roommate for understanding those differences, accepting them and not applying her own values to others, she added.

During Chinese New Year two years ago, Qingyuan took Krista to her home town in a remote county in central Henan Province. She was worried that Krista wouldn't be used to life there, but to her surprise, she hit it off with her family and spent a happy Spring Festival holiday. 

Krista sees Qingyuan as an interesting and somewhat quirky girl with many passions, including music and the environment.

For the past two years Qingyuan has spent much of her spare time between a research project on foreign rock musicians playing Kunshan’s bars, taking care of stray cats in the neighborhood and interning at an environmental NGO in Shanghai.

Although their personality traits and life habits are very different, Krista and Qingyuan have built a wonderful chemistry as they both treat differences among people with respect and inclusiveness.


Roommate story #2

Yuxuan Wang and Zichao Chen: Exploring a world of possibilities

Yuxuan Wang and Zichao Chen
Yuxuan Wang (left) and Zichao Chen

Yuxuan Wang and Zichao Chen both major in data science and are often seen walking together on campus as they go to the same disciplinary courses.

"Yuxuan is smart and learns well in class," said Zichao. “My first impression of him was that he's a cool academic, but after spending more time with him, I find that he is also warm and fun."

A big music fan, Yuxuan “plays guitar whenever he has some time and has broken who knows how many guitar strings," said Zichao.

He is also a talented sportsman who has won badminton awards, and is a member of the university table tennis, swimming and cycling clubs.

“He has inspired me to take up sports with him,” said Zichao.

Yuxuan describes his roommate as generous and warm. “He becomes friends with everyone quickly,” he said.

Zichao’s extracurricular activities include photography and filmmaking. He has shot two campus videos using a drone, while Yuxuan played guitar for the background music.

Zichao also has an interest in investment, which has rubbed off on his roommate.

“Under his influence, I started to do some research on stocks and won first place, quite to my surprise, in the Duke Kunshan U.S. Stock Competition,” said Yuxuan.

Friends inspire us to achieve better. Without Yuxuan, Zichao would not have taken up sports and without Zichao, Yuxuan would not have ventured into the stock market. A video without background music is monotonous and it is difficult to convey a message with only music and no image. Often, it is through collaboration, communication and interaction that the best results are achieved.


Roommate story #3

Yiwen Wang and Leonardo Barbara: Life needs music and humor

Yiwen Wang and Leonardo Barbara
Yiwen Wang (left) and Leonardo

"I think personality traits and ways of thinking matter more in relationships than similarities in culture and background,” said Leonardo Barbara, from Italy. “Yiwen Wang and I come from different countries and cultures, but we get along well thanks mostly to our personalities and ways of doing things."

Before sharing an apartment with Yiwen, Leonardo worried that cultural differences between them could be a barrier, but his worries soon turned out to be unfounded.

"We have a shared sense of humor and Yiwen is so fun," he said.

Yiwen often sings Italian songs in a Chinese style to make his roommate laugh and tells jokes to lift his spirits when he senses he is upset. "I’m very comfortable with Yiwen around," Leonardo added.

To Yiwen, Leonardo is a warm and fun friend who gets him, and shares his thinking on music and life. Both are passionate about music and talk a lot about different musical genres. Yiwen loves singing, though he doesn’t have time to join any band due to a demanding coursework load.

Leonardo is a guitarist with the Duke Kunshan band and a songwriter. He discusses his songs with Yiwen and invites him to band performances.

Yiwen and Leonardo have become good friends who appreciate and understand each other. Despite different backgrounds, they have found similar personality traits that bond them and run deeper than nationality or culture.


Roommate story #4

Kaixi Cao and Qi Guo: Getting better together and supporting each other


Kaixi Cao and Qi Guo
Kaixi Cao (left) and Qi Guo

Former roommates Kaixi Cao and Qi Guo have much in common. Both have worked as research assistants, organized student activities and been interns.

“I feel that we have helped each other grow and influenced each other’s success," said Kaixi.

Despite busy schedules, the pair developed a deep bond living together.

"Whenever we happened to be in the dorm together, we would catch up with each other and talk for a long time," said Qi.

The pair stopped sharing an apartment in sophomore year as they both worked as resident assistants, but continued to meet.

Kaixi is lead singer with the Duke Kunshan band and Qi regularly goes to see her perform. With Qi’s support Kaixi has also tried her hand at a part-time singing job off campus and joined the Duke Kunshan Singing Competition.

Qi said, "I hope I can always be her front row audience and I also want to be by her side after the show ends.”

As roommates, they have offered encouragement and helped each other grow. On the journey to overcome challenges and keep improving, they are very lucky, because they always know that no matter what, they have each other's support.


Roommate story #5

You Wu and Yunji Lee: Embracing differences with an inclusive mindset

You Wu and Yunji Lee
Yunji Lee (left) and You Wu

You Wu and Yunji Lee ended up sharing after both filling out their accommodation application forms “no preference” for roommate habits, food preferences and sleeping schedule. It was probably this relaxed openness that saw the two become close friends over the course of two years living together, transcending cultural differences.

"If I had to use one word to describe Yunji, I would say she is a superwoman," said You. Yunji is self-disciplined and full of energy even after a late night studying for finals, she added.

You is optimistic and cheerful, like a ray of sunshine, said Yunji. "She never complains about anything or anybody.”

"Sometimes I feel worried and upset due to study pressure. But whenever I see the smile on You's face, I feel comforted and encouraged,” she added.

The roommates enjoy taking city breaks together, something which has helped them form a strong bond and introduced Yunji, who comes from Korea, to Chinese culture.

“China is a fascinating country and I really want to continue living here after graduation," Yunji said.

Living with people who have different life habits and cultures is not always easy, but at Duke Kunshan, students have long learned to embrace diversity and get along with classmates from different countries. Cross-cultural exchange can be a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. The international environment at DKU allows students to learn about the world and its many fascinating cultures.