St. Norbert College Magazine
| National Champs
By Mike Dauplaise ’84
Campus living arrangements provide the basis for bonds that last a lifetime.
The process of adjusting to the idiosyncrasies of roommates without driving each other crazy is a smoother path for some college students than others. For those up for the challenge of embracing differences rather than rejecting them, their reward may be a connection that endures long after the act of merely sharing space has ended.
The other side of the world
Caitlin Froemming ’09 embraces diversity is an understatement. The Lancaster, Wis., native enjoyed living with Thailand’s
Nariya Charoensupaya so much first semester that the prospect of rooming with Chinese student
Qian Li for second semester was intriguing. Froemming and Qian were joined by De Pere’s
Sarah Gray when she transferred to St. Norbert at semester, and the trio happily shares a triple suite in Sensenbrenner Hall.
To be fair, Charoensupaya is hardly your typical international student with regard to her language skills—not when she can describe the more sharing nature of Asian culture as “collectivistic.” In fact, Charoensupaya’s biggest challenge is adjusting to small-city life in De Pere after her hometown of Bangkok, where approximately 15 million people crowd into the metro area.
“Do whatever; eat my food; it doesn’t matter,” Charoensupaya says with barely a hint of an accent.
“I’m used to a room with boundaries, and with Nariya there weren’t many boundaries,” Froemming adds.
“I hoard my chocolate,” Gray chimes in.
The more boisterous nature of Americans took some getting used to for Qian, who is progressing well with her English. “I was nervous at first,” she says. “People here are more noisy than people in China.”
The whole shoe thing is odd for Charoensupaya, who comes from a culture where shoes are removed at the door. “I knew American culture from watching movies, but there are things we do differently, like you wear shoes into a house and we don’t.”
The American girls get a kick out of Qian’s ritual of folding her sheets every morning and leaving them in a tidy pile on top of her bed, a practice that Charoensupaya did back home but isn’t about to do while out of her mom’s sight.
“(Li’s bed) is so neat. Sarah and I … ,” is all Froemming can say before being shushed by Gray.
An aspiring chef, Charoensupaya still brings over food from her second-semester home in the convent for the girls to try out. One of Froemming’s favorites is moon cake, a concoction of beans, eggs and fruit.
“That’s, like, the weirdest thing for you, isn’t it?” Charoensupaya asks her.
Regardless of any cultural or language differences, there will always be some things that just bug people. For Froemming that something is hair. “I’m always picking it up. It’s one of my little pet peeves,” she says. Then, turning to Gray: “Li’s area is so clean. We should make ours like that.”
To which Gray can only laugh.
The best man on the floor
Josh Jones ’10 is a one-man island in a sea of women, and he and his Lorraine Hall neighbors love it.
In most cases it would be highly unusual for a male student to anchor the first floor corner room of a girls’ dorm. But there’s a perfectly logical explanation behind Jones’ living arrangement: his room is one of the few on campus that is wheelchair accessible, all the way down to the private bathroom.
Jones’ college experience would be more traditional if not for a backyard pool accident at his high school graduation party that changed his life forever. Instead of arriving on campus as a 6-foot-3, 300-plus pound offensive lineman, Josh first needed to spend a year in rehabilitation and occupational therapy to improve his arm and hand strength to the point where he could function on his own.
“Coming to St. Norbert and getting my independence back was something I was really looking forward to (after rehab),” says the Marinette, Wis., native. “It was almost a relief to finally make it here. It was a confidence builder, and I spent the first couple of days just getting back into the social part of things.”
Jones’ mild manner and easy listening skills make him a big brother for many of his neighbors.
“I don’t think anybody’s bothered by the fact he’s a guy; he’s just one of the gang,” says
Cassie Burns ’10, resident assistant. “He’s an absolute joy to have on the floor. There’s a lot of estrogen around here and sometimes you need a guy to talk to. There are days when I’m having a meltdown, and he’ll just listen. We joke that he’s actually my RA.”
“Cassie’s one of the people I can go to if I need something, like help with my shirt buttons,” Jones says. “But I’d like to think I can go to anyone on the floor if I asked, and they’d swing down here.”
Jones’ extra-wide door is usually open in a non-verbal invitation to say hi. “Hey, big Josh,” a friendly voice calls out from down the hall.
“(The open door) was a little awkward at first,” he admits. “Then like anything else, everyone just gets comfortable with it.”
Laura Parmeter ’11 and
Chelsey Gruetzmacher ’11 joined up in second semester after splitting from their previous roommates. They were more challenged by Gruetzmacher’s tendency to talk in her sleep than by some guy living down the hall.
“Josh isn’t interested in the drama (of a girls’ dorm); he’s there to listen,” Parmeter says. “In the beginning of the year there were one or two girls who tried to be motherly toward him, but within two weeks they realized he could handle things himself.”
“It didn’t faze me,” Gruetzmacher says of Jones’ presence. “I don’t think of him as a guy on a girls’ floor; I see him more as a big brother.”