I did know some people from my high school who were also attending University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
, but I wasn’t very familiar with them. This led to me staring hopelessly at my laptop screen when the housing contract asked me if I had a person in mind to room with or if I would rather be paired with a complete stranger.
Clicking on the latter option led to a series of slider bars paired with questions like, “How organized of a person are you?” and “How comfortable are you with the possibility of rooming with someone of the LGBTQ+ community?” I filled out my preferences, and I waited, not even inspired to search through social media to find potential roommates.
Three weeks later, I received an email from a stranger — let’s call her Harmony. She said that she had selected the same dorm room as I had and was automatically paired with me. Apparently, I was extremely difficult to get in contact with since I hadn’t set up a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account. She somehow found my email through some Internet digging, and we ended up talking throughout the summer within a 30+ message chain. We never met before move-in day because Harmony lived 4 hours away from my home, and it didn’t help that I was out of the country for half the summer. Through our online conversations, we discussed our interests and what each person would bring to move-in day while also trying to vaguely describe ourselves without seeming arrogant.
Admittedly, I was nervous about seeing Harmony for the first time during our move-in day. Our majors were different, and I wasn’t sure if she was more of an introvert or extrovert. At the end of the day, the email chain helped us get closer but felt inadequate because Harmony was still
a stranger that I would be living with for an entire school year. It didn’t help that my friends in high school weren’t attending the same university as I was. I certainly felt the pressure to make friends with this stranger; otherwise, I had a suspicion that the start of my freshman year of college would be a bit more difficult.
Fast forward to now, the time of spring semester midterms and the rush of student government elections, and it’s not an overstatement to say that Harmony and I are best friends on this campus. The fact that we have to live with each other (and each other’s quirks) was a strong underlying factor. The largest influencer in our relationship, however, was that we genuinely took the time to get to know each other by going out together and constantly talking. We’ve had serious late-night discussions and witty banter about memes, and this range of conversation is what really helped us grow our friendship. Laughing at YouTube videos and singing random songs in the room just further developed our connection, not to mention the fact that we decided to co-parent a variety of fish.
I understand the misgivings surrounding random roommate assignment because I went through those doubts myself. There is always the chance that the person you’re paired with ends up being someone you clash with consistently and simply can’t agree with. It’s always better to be amicable instead of turning into enemies, and this is why conversation is important. There will always be people that students won’t be close to, which may include roommates. However, choosing a friend from high school to room with in college isn’t a foolproof solution for freshman year jitters either. Friendships from high school don’t always survive over time, and that’s to be expected. Independence has the potential to change people, their actions, and their beliefs. The new, more open structure of college purposefully allows students to mold their own life according to what their goals and focuses are. This allowance can cause relationships to morph, for better or for worse.
In my personal experience, random roommate assignment lead to a strong friendship and better interpersonal skills. The risk of “going random” is, in my opinion, worth the gamble since most freshmen students are looking for new experiences in the first place. Exposure to the college environment is meant to be provocative, and meeting new people is bound to happen regardless. Random roommate assignment allows students to gain quick exposure to interacting with others who may not share the same background, leading to unique friendships that have the potential to continue past the college years.