Freshman year of college can resemble a horror story in multiple ways. There’s the stress of different homework loads, getting around a new campus and attempting to make friends. Add a random roommate on top of that, and the words “oh crap” probably come to mind.
Here’s what really happens when you live with a random roommate.
You can stop biting your nails with fear. Having a random roommate doesn’t always end in a bad experience. Take recent University of Central Florida grad Rachel Saunders, for example. When she moved in with two random girls, she had no idea what to expect. “I hadn’t even met two of the girls when I moved in, and it was really intimidating at first because I’d never lived with anyone outside of my family but all three of my roommates were super welcoming. They would leave notes on my mirror or make pancakes for me the first few weeks to make me feel welcome,” she said. Awww, am I right?
The same thing happened to me. As a freshman at New York University coming from Florida, I had no friends, no weather-appropriate clothing and no idea how to live in a big, new city. Living off campus wasn’t a reasonable option for me, so I opted for one of the newer first-year residence halls. NYU pairs you with your living-mates through a survey algorithm based on things like your cleanliness or bedtime. Does this method actually work? Who knows. But I will say this: It worked for me.
Of course, I had my doubts at first. When I first found out about living with my roommate Katianna, I automatically Facebook stalked her—as any normal person would. This adorable blonde popped up on my screen and I thought: Well, crap. My life will be a re-staging of the first Act of Wicked, and I couldn’t get myself to look forward to it.
We started messaging, talking about every topic of twenty questions that you could think of. Our first connection? We both love Michael Bublé. But I still had my doubts; everyone hears about how horrible freshman roommates can turn out.
This is often how people feel when moving in with a stranger, especially a stranger that could very well wreck your living situation for a whole year. You could either end up with a dream roommate like Saunders, or you might end up super unlucky.
For Florida State University senior Ricardo Andres Da Costa, this came true. No amount of Facebook stalking could’ve prepared him. “[The roommate] I lived with had a fortune cookie wrapper in his sink, his used clothes were just frequently kicked under his sink and he slept in the living room,” he said. Guess what? The story gets worse. “He literally just knocked out in the living room every day, hitting a giant bong and playing Runescape. He eventually got evicted which ‘solved’ my problem…[but] the fortune cookie wrapper was still in his sink and I had to throw it out,” explained Da Costa.
Despite this extremely uncomfortable situation, Da Costa did attempt to communicate with his roommate a few times before he was evicted. “I would talk to him about keeping the living room clean and he would say ‘I clean on Sundays,’ but when Sunday would come he wouldn’t do anything. I basically just made my room a sacred spot of Bath and Bodyworks’s three wick candles and constant cleaning so I could recharge every day,” he said.
Yikes times 10, right? Knowing that stories like this really happened, I tried my best to communicate with Kati right off the bat. We both moved in the same day and had the awkward first meeting with our hovering parents. Welcome Week went by and we didn’t hang out that often. We both had similar habits and practically lived the same way, but there was no friendship… yet. And then classes started.
Classes, a lack of new friends, dealing with our messy suite-mates and being away from home— everything started to come down on both of us. And, ultimately, we turned to each other. I distinctly remember the late-night talks we would have. We talked about exes, our families, our high school experiences, our friends and all the good and bad that made us, us.
What sealed the deal was what happened over a very long night later in the fall semester. Kati had a throat infection and needed to go to the ER. When she texted me the news, my first thought was, is she alone? And she was. My second thought: I’m heading over there right now. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to be sick without family in a foreign city. So, I waited with her at the hospital and held her hand as the doctors scraped her throat.
You’d be surprised what kind of bond you can form in a hospital room. Three years later, we’re still perfectly happy roommates. I don’t think I’ll ever feel as grateful as I do for having someone that understands me the way she does.
In other words? Having random roommates won’t always end up a total nightmare. “It wasn’t easy to become best friends [with my roommate],” said University of Florida junior Mercedes Laguizamon. Horror stories will always exist, but for each one, you’ll also find one so sweet it’s almost unbelievable. “[My roommate] quickly became the person I could trust the most. She is one of my best friends and I always make sure everyone knows that a random roommate is always a good option,” Laguizamon said.
Still worried? Even if you don’t become best friends with who you live with, you can take steps to avoid wanting to murder each other. “Communication is key,” said UCF Resident Assistant Judlyne Valmyr. “The first thing all roommates need to do is agree on an effective way to communicate to each other whenever a disagreement may occur.” Yup, that means no passive-aggressive notes about dirty dishes.
I’ll leave you with this in mind: College is a shit show. But your roommates might be your key to survival.