Over the my first three years at the University of Florida, I found myself with 12 random roommates. It sounds kind of obscene, but before you ask—no, I’m not a bad roommate. Roommates came and went, leaving my life and my apartment feeling a bit like Grand Central Station at times, but the near-constant stream of new people gave me stories to tell.
Like me, other college students often find themselves with a random roommate. Whether you matched with a student through campus housing or you found someone on Craig’s List last minute, living with someone you don’t know happens all the time in college.
It sounds like a terrifying prospect, and it can be (I could tell some stories…), but most of the time, if you really try, random roommates work out just fine. One thing I learned amidst my countless randoms is that random roommates can teach you how to get along with just about anyone.
Freshman year I lived in of three different dorms. As a result, I roomed with seven different people my first year of college. (Side note: I am still convinced that communal bathrooms came from the mind of a designer who hates college students.) Living with some of those roommates challenged my patience and sanity, but some became fast friends. I think the difference lays in my approach. Remember: You hold the power to make your random roommate story a disaster or one that starts a friendship.
Sometimes life sticks you with someone who seems destined to be your BFF, but it doesn’t always work that way. “Don’t be shy about starting a conversation or making plans, especially during the first few weeks. They might not be the first to speak up, but once you find some common ground everything gets easier,” said UF senior Sonata Valaitis. Make an effort. If both of you decide to be shy, you’ll never get to know each other, and you could miss out on building a bond with an awesome person. You won’t know until you try.
If you manage to make the first move and initiate conversation, you’re off to a great start. You can’t throw in the towel there though. Showing interest in what matters to the other person helps bond people together. If she absolutely loves Ariana Grande, going to food truck rallies or obscure Russian literature, ask her why. “I’ve always had random roommates, and I couldn’t be more different than all of them. Yet I’ve learned that I have a lot of things in common with them, or even that I enjoy things I never thought I would,” said University of Central Florida senior Charles Hines. “My roomies got me into exercising and sports. I learned a lot about video games. And then when I want, they watch the Grammys with me.”
While becoming friends with randoms sometimes requires that you each explain yourselves a bit, other times it happens without trying. My freshman year I roomed with a girl who kept to herself for the first couple of months (and so did I), but once we talked we became really great friends. We even ended up signing a lease together for sophomore year because we made really great roommates.
UF senior Paige Arnold mentioned a similar success story. “I’ll be moving in to an apartment in August with a girl I met through Facebook. I responded to her ad and noticed that we have a few mutual friends. I made a coffee date to see if we would be a good match and it turned out that we have a lot in common,” said Arnold. Sometimes you just get lucky.
“As with any human relationship communication is key for a happy and flourishing environment,” said UCF senior Stevens Thomas. “You can’t really expect to live with someone and expect anything to get done if you don’t talk to them.” If you’re friendly with your roomies, it will be a lot easier to talk to them about the pile of dishes they’ve left sitting in the sink for the last week and a half. Conflict resolution comes with living in a shared space, so anything that makes that easier should be at the top of your to-do list.
Through my experiences, I developed a theory: Random roommates come into our lives for a reason. It sounds a little cheesy, but stay with me. Each one of my 12 random roommates taught me something. My most recent random spends a lot of time in the gym, so I developed good workout habits. Other roommates and I bonded over things like going out to breakfast together, or playing video games or just talking about life. Not everyone will become your best friend, some come and go (sometimes thankfully and sometimes not), but the ones that you want to stick usually do. If you care, just a little bit, they probably will too.