They can start college as lifelong best buddies yet stop speaking to each other by mid-terms. They can meet for the first time the week before classes begin and end up the godparents of each other’s children in later years.
It’s not a rhetoric course or Intro to Psych, but learning to live with another person can be one of the most challenging educational experiences an undergraduate will have. It also can be one of the most rewarding.
Parent Times visited with four groups of roommates this fall to see how they are making their living situations work.
Randomly assigned roommates in the Performing Arts Learning Community in Currier Hall
Sam Hawkins and Chaz Williams-Ali may have been unknown to each other, but they were hardly strangers to the concept of sharing space. Hawkins grew up in a room with his younger brother. Williams-Ali, part of a blended family that includes nine siblings from age 27 to toddler, spent last summer rooming with 1- and 3-year-olds.
“I spent months sleeping on princess sheets, so I have no problems about living with someone else,” says Williams-Ali.
Although both worried about being stuck with a party animal who came home at 3 a.m. and practiced the trombone until dawn, the two discovered that they meshed well. One brought the fridge, the other brought the TV and microwave. They take turns buying groceries, and they share—whether video games or soda pop.
They iron out details as the semester passes. For instance, they use a dry-erase board on their door to let the other know if he’s in or out of the room. This came after an incident where Williams-Ali spent an hour in the room thinking he was alone only to be startled halfway to a heart attack when Hawkins sat up in his loft bed and shouted, “Hey,” when Williams-Ali began practicing an operatic aria.
“I couldn’t see him. Really, I didn’t know he was there,” Williams-Ali recalls.
They both seem happy with getting a random roommate instead of living with someone they already knew. Exposing oneself to new situations and meeting new people from different backgrounds is part of the college experience, they say.
“If you were around the same people your whole life, how boring would that be?” Hawkins wonders. “This really jump-starts that real-world experience.”
Living together again in Mayflower Hall after being random rommates their first year
Kelsey DenAdel grew up in a small, conservative Midwestern town. She ran cross-country in high school. And she is not a morning person.
Aditi Rajendran grew up in a college town, went to a huge high school where she was a cheerleader. Of Indian descent, she was the first person in her family to be born in the United States. She’s a chipper, cheery early bird.
Could such opposites survive the first semester?
“I never had to live with another person before. I kept thinking, ‘Is she going to annoy me to no end?’” says DenAdel, remembering her first days as a first-year student in the residence hall with Rajendran.
But something clicked with this collegiate version of The Odd Couple. They have chosen to live together again this year. They realize it doesn’t always work as smoothly for everyone. In fact, one of their friends had no idea her roommate despised her until she searched the Internet one day.
“She read all these horrible things about herself on her roommate’s My Space page. It was awful,” Rajendran says.
DenAdel and Rajendran credit flexibility and open-mindedness for their strong bond. Open lines of communication help, too.
“She’ll yell at me to pick up my clothes. I’ll yell at her and tell her she’s being bossy,” explains Rajendran, smiling. “We’re very different but we’ve gotten into sort of a routine. You know, ‘Have a good day. See you at 6 for dinner.’ We’re like some old married couple.”
Last year, when Amanda Crane and Abbie Ginther moved into separate rooms in their sorority house, each had a nice, friendly roommate. As the year progressed, their roommates became best friends. So did Crane and Ginther. So this year, they swapped.
Crane and Ginther have become like sisters—twins, even. They both have blonde hair, brown eyes, infectious laughs, decorating tastes that run hot pink and teal, and a passion for photography.
They love sharing clothes, but rules of the room dictate that the owner gets to wear a new garment the first time. If it still has a price tag, it’s off limits. Other than that, the rules are few and far between, Ginther says.
“We’re pretty laid back and can joke about things. We kind of pick our battles. I mean, does it really bother me that Amanda’s mirror is on my desk right now?” Ginther asks, raising her eyebrows and grinning at her roommate. “Nah, not really. Actually, I’m not usually as clean as she is.”
Crane and Ginther often walk to classes together, eat many meals together, and push each other to hit the gym. The women, who both grew up with older brothers, are protective of each other, offering up opinions on potential boyfriends. “It’s nice having another girl’s opinions on everyday situations,” Crane says. “We could seriously stay up all night and talk about life.”
And, like siblings, they do argue. While describing a typical day on their floor, Ginther reveals that the duo has been known to crank up the stereo and sing, seriously off key, until they erupt in a fit of giggles.
“We’re horrible singers,” she says, prompting Crane to protest, “No, I’m not.”
“Oh, yes, both of us are,” Ginther says.
Rachel Leffring, Megan Lowndes, Kaelan Maguire, and Missy Roane met in the residence halls their first year in college and became close friends. By junior year, the four decided they could handle each other’s quirks better than strangers’ and moved into an apartment a few blocks from campus.
Their friendship has extended to a second lease, in part because they set down some basic ground rules in the beginning. One biggie is that no one shares food—a result of Leffring’s former roommate’s habit of stealing her Ramen noodles. “They’re only 10 cents, I know, but it’s the idea,” Leffring says.
They each have cabinet space dedicated to groceries, and anything in the fridge bears the owner’s initials in black-Sharpie ink. They also keep track of household chore assignments on bulletin boards just inside the front door.
Although they occasionally have a verbal scuffle, the women say they cherish their fun times together—like the time they dragged home their first live Christmas tree, dubbed “Chubs” because it was as wide as the sliding glass doors to the balcony. Or the time they had the “minor fire mishap with the garlic bread” and got a hands-on lesson in operating a fire extinguisher.
“I get very emotional when I think about graduating. What am I going to do next year? Who else would be so excited as they are to hear about the mundane, meaningless details of my day?” Leffring says. “I know they’ll be in my life after college. They’ll be in my wedding someday.”
by Amy Schoon