Freshman year of college is a blast. If you’re about to start yours, I envy you so hard right now because It. Is. The. Best.
Seriously, if anyone ever perfects time travel, I know exactly which year of my life I’m returning to first, and I think the reason I miss that intro year so much is because I took the random roomate challenge and WON. We went from strangers to family in nine months flat, and you can too. Here’s how.
First Step: Taking the pickeroo plunge.
Choosing to have your roommate plucked out for you is bold. Not everyone has good odds with the luck of the draw. But almost everyone who’s coming into college for their first year is probably right about where you’re at—amped for the fresh start and the right to make decisions (no more of that “under my roof” stuff from the ‘rents), nervous to leave the meticulously woven nest their parents have made, and a teensy bit overwhelmed because WOW this place is way bigger than it looked at orientation.
Odds are, you’ll land with someone pretty normal. For me, it was worth the risk to roll the dice because my options were slim, but it’s a choice I’d make again and again no matter how many gals I knew going in.
Step Two: Breaking the ice is nice.
If you do so choose to play a round of roommate roulette, the next thing that’s gonna happen is the wait. I’m not gonna lie, it might drive you a little cray.
The entire summer after my high school graduation I was frazzled to the core, just waiting to find out who was going to be twinning (as in, having dual twin-sized beds) with me all year. I really considered consulting a fortune teller for the first and only time in my life.
When her name and 411 showed up in my inbox, a tidy little gift from the housing department, my immediate reaction was something along the lines of a flaily arm-filled “AGHHHH!”
I tried to dissect just who she was just by staring at those two words, ten digits, and her e-mail handle, but it wasn’t even close to enough info to get me through to fall. The anticipation was killer. I had to put on my brave girl bottoms and reach out.
The beauty of college-ing in the 21st Century? The interwebssss. A few e-mails later, and I already knew all the major deets I needed to turn that giant question mark that was looming over my life into an exclamation mark of eep!
No, we didn’t have a lot in common—quite the opposite, actually. (She was a gymnast with no siblings who barely broke five feet, while I was the super tall big sister of two who was allergic to leotards.) But I could tell she, too, was coming into this thing with a good attitude. Phew.
Step Three: Move-in and groovin’.
By move-in day, you’ll have figured where you two fall on the alike-not alike spectrum, and you’ll be prepared for how to proceed. Either you’ll be like us, ready with a fun activity list before we stepped foot in the hall, or you’ll be a little more cautious.
Spoiler alert: Move-in day is a madhouse. There’s just no way around it.
We were on the seventh floor of a co-ed dorm that had three wings to house over 300 students, and there were only two elevators for everyone to share. Pure, ridiculous, exhausting chaos. Other than the mandatory “hello” exchange, the only words filling the room belonged to our parents, who were buzzing around trying to collect all their sappy feels.
A few hours in, though, the hustle and bustle eventually dissipated and suddenly that feeling of this is it now, girls set in. That’s when the first adventure began.
For us, it was a mini-road trip around town to soak it all in as the sun set. While everyone else around us was jumping on the school’s generic welcome wagon activities, we were doing our own thing, and I couldn’t recommend it more. The bond was as instant as superglue.
Step Four: Working out the kinks.
Newsflash: We are all human. There is no such thing as a perfect person, so don’t expect your roomie to be. I wasn’t, she wasn’t, and you won’t be.
It takes a while for the honeymoon phase to end, but when it does, you’re both going to have to make some adjustments.
For us, it was a lot of scheduling woes. She was a nursing student with endless exams scheduled, and I was (gasp) undeclared and wading through my core classes with barely a doggy paddle’s worth of effort. Sometimes I had to remind myself to be considerate of things like, hey, she’s sleeping in the middle of the afternoon right now because she had the dreaded 8 a.m.-after-staying-up-all-night cramming, so maybe use some headphones, goob.
There were definitely times when one or both roomies are gonna secretly bug the H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of each other, but the trick is to make a house rule that the line of communication is never severed. Knowing that both of us (not just me me me) deserved to feel comfortable in our teensy abode helped to keep the foul line from ever being crossed. Selfishness got checked right at that door, and we were both better for it.
Step Five: Clutching the commonalities.
A major benefit of living with someone who’s got a way different taste profile than you? You might learn to like something new (or just confirm that you do not like it, which is also good to know).
There was one big thing we had in common at first: A shared appreciation of Pacey Witter and the daily Dawson’s Creek reruns that aired during our mutual lunch break. Sadly, even the most intense Joshua Jackson swoonage can’t hold the whole house together, so I had to open up my mind.
I found a lot of my roommate’s faves were things I had maybe only heard of once or twice but didn’t love or hate. But once I started giving some of her interests a chance—surprise, surprise—nine times out of ten, I came to like or at least respect whatever “it” was (like that O.A.R. CD she couldn’t stop playing, or the terrible lasso dance that’s actually really fun).
So, if your roommate is a die-hard follower of this or that, give it a shot and see what happens. It might even become new crew canon.
Step Six: Rounding out a new circle.
Even if your truest BFFs are out there learning it up on the same campus, you’re gonna form a new group that includes your roomie sometimes … and sometimes doesn’t.
For me, it was a little subgroup from the marching band that my then-boyf knew, and we wound up spending a lot of downtime with them because they were fun, nerdtastic, and totally accepting new friend applications to join their tailgate spot. Win!
For her, it was a gal from her nursing classes that she spent all the livelong day with (and sometimes coffee- and flashcard-filled nights, too). That girl would end up moving in with us to an apartment-style dorm the following year—just in time for Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle to jettison the pointy trio pose into full, embarrassing picture glory—but we didn’t know that yet.
What we did know is that while were developing semi-separate friend circles across campus, it was kind of like a Venn diagram where the crossover section was huge because we made sure each was always welcome in the other’s.
Step Seven: Closing up shop.
At the end of second semester, we started to dread the end of exams because it meant we’d have to pack up and fly away from this little cocoon of awesome we’d established for ourselves.
There was always the promise of next year and the adventure that would bring, but she and I had just survived our first year as ~grown-ups~ together, and it was SO hard to say good-bye for the summer. Ugly crying all over that last day. We grew to be like sisters because freshman year is the perfect time to embark on something new—including who you share your space with.
What are your thoughts on rooming with a stranger?