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Incoming Freshmen: Why You Should Live with a Stranger

Julia Bauer

Incoming College Freshmen: Why You Should Live with a Stranger
Incoming College Freshmen: Why You Should Live with a Stranger
Julia Bauer – Current Junior in College, writer and journalist with a passion for storytelling.

On a random Tuesday night in September during our junior year of college, the TV in our apartment living room began to play the song, “Purity,” by A$AP Rocky. Sitting together under the dim purple glow of our LED lights, we shed a few tears as we reminisced on our college experience thus far.

“Wow,” Jenny said. “Remember when went to that frat for game day, and we took that sign they had in their bathroom?”

Looking at the sign hanging above our TV, Elizabeth replied, “How could I forget?”

“Having a ‘no dumping violators will be prosecuted’ sign in the bathroom was pretty clever on their part,” I said, laughing. “I wonder if they even noticed it was gone.”

“I think it looks better in our living room,” Elizabeth said.

“I can’t believe we ran all the way home with that sign,” Jenny said. “Especially because there were so many people on the sidewalk heading to the stadium for the game.”

“And we were running the opposite direction, straight through them,” Elizabeth replied.

We all laughed, tears of joy and nostalgia in our eyes.

“Honestly, I don’t even remember life without you guys by my side every day,” I said.

When we entered college in the fall of 2019, none of us knew what to expect; all we knew was we would be meeting for the first time.

The Roommate-Pairing Process

After I received my acceptance from the University of Florida in February 2019, my first concern was, “Who am I going to live with?” However, I grabbed the reigns on my brain and let myself marinate in the bliss I was feeling after getting accepted into a top public university before giving housing too much thought.

After a few weeks, my future-Gator friends told me to join the UF 2023 Facebook group where everyone was finding their roommates. I was hesitant. Posting a biography about myself in a Facebook group with thousands of unknown people did not sound appealing to me. Even still, I knew I had to suck it up and join because I had already decided I did not want to live with anyone from my high school. The Facebook group gave me the opportunity to choose a stranger to live with rather than having the university assign me one.

I knew finding a random roommate would force me out of comfort zone, and people had always told me that your college years are the prime time to find yourself and grow.

I wrote a biography about myself, added photos of myself and included my Instagram username for potential roommates to message me. Hiding my phone under my desk during my fifth period AP Calculus BC class, I hit the post button.

I talked to between 30 and 40 girls on Instagram over the next two weeks, and I ended up rooming with the very first girl who messaged me.

Jenny and I immediately hit it off. She was the most authentic and honest person I spoke with. The conversion began with the style of dorm we wanted to live in, which we fortunately agreed upon. We had an apartment-style dorm in mind because we wanted to avoid communal bathrooms at all costs.

After we settled on a dorm, we discovered just how similar we were. We discussed everything from our political views to hobbies. I was overcome with excitement when she sent me photos of her paintings; I bolted to my desk to find my sketchbook so I could send her photos of my drawings in return. I had no idea I would spend nights in my living room painting with this girl from Tennessee two years later.

Her music taste is what cemented my decision on living with her. Our love for music and shared taste in artists filled me with joy. We sent our favorite songs back and forth, and still share music with each other to this day.

We agreed it was a good idea to FaceTime before we fully committed to living with each other. When we hung up the phone after talking for two and a half hours (which was way longer than we expected), we both submitted our roommate preferences, excited and nervous about the future.

Because we were going to live in an apartment style dorm with two other girls, my soon-to-be-roommate found another girl online, Elizabeth, who is from New Jersey, to be another one of our roommates.

A Brief Summary of the First Two Years

 Jenny, Elizabeth and I decided to live together sophomore year very early on, signing the lease for our future apartment two months into our freshman year. Our fourth roommate, who we also became very close with, had different living plans in mind, so the three of us toured our future home together shortly after signing the lease.

Throughout our first year living together, we had our fair share of issues, which we ironed out before the year ended. It was hard to adjust to our living environment because of how confined it was. There were only two bedrooms and one bathroom for the four of us, and small spaces become messy fast. When dishes were left in the sink or the trash was overflowing, we were all reluctant to bring it up. There were also a handful of miscommunications regarding having company over. However, we quickly realized communication is the most important factor of not just maintaining good roommate relationships, but good friendships.

We spent, and still spend, hours studying together but always find time to goof off. Freshman year, we had game nights with the other students living on our floor. Now, living in an apartment, we make friends with our neighbors. Our balcony overlooks an internal courtyard, and there is another section of apartments with balconies facing ours. Some nights, I lay in the hammock while Jenny and Elizabeth sit in the chairs, and we make conversations with other students on their balconies by shouting across the courtyard.

Freshman year, we grew the most as individuals. Jenny, Elizabeth and I became completely different – and better – versions of ourselves. We incorporated the best parts of each other into ourselves. Elizabeth’s put-yourself-first attitude and Jenny’s go-with-the-flow mindset have made me a stronger, more independent and confident person. Whenever I find myself settling for unfair treatment by others or becoming overwhelmed with stress about the future, I think about what they would do. Because of this, Jenny and Elizabeth will forever be a part of me. Without them, I would not be who I am today.

Sophomore year is the year we became a family. After moving out of our prison-like dorm and into an apartment where we have a real kitchen and our own bedrooms and bathrooms, we began to feel more at ease. The “no dumping violators will be prosecuted” sign above our TV, the bean bag chairs on the floor, the picture frames on the tables and the countless plants around our apartment created an environment best suited for us. However, it is our relationship with each other that makes it feel like home.

We have created a space that is safe enough to tell each other anything and everything. From the little things we see throughout our day, like the funny graphic tee our professor wore to class, to the more serious things, like our previously endured relationship trauma, nothing is off limits. I know Jenny and Elizabeth will be there for me when I need someone to lean on or lift me up, and they know I will do the same for them.

Our first two years consisted of a lot of learning, growing, studying and having fun, all of which we are still doing together.

My Advice to You

  1. Have random roommates your freshman year

I recommend branching outside of your high school friend group when finding someone to live with. Most colleges have social media pages for incoming freshman where you can post a biography about yourself, like I did. When talking to potential roommates, discuss living habits (sleep schedules, cleanliness, etc.), interests and other topics that are important to you (political and religious views, etc.). Being authentic and transparent is key; your roommate will discover who you are while living with you, so it is best to lay most of it on the table before you meet. Even if it does not work out the way my situation did, having random roommates will force you out of your comfort zone. The only way you can grow is by being uncomfortable.

  1. When it comes to disputes, be polite but completely transparent

My roommates and I learned that the best way to handle disputes is by simply communicating. Speaking in person is more effective than over text. While you may be a person who is reluctant to address things that bother you because you avoid conflict (like me), you must remember that your home is supposed to be your safe space. If your roommate does something that upsets you, you have the right to address it. As Elizabeth would say, you should be your first priority. However, remember to be polite and respectful while doing so.

  1. Be responsible for your own things

When I moved into my dorm freshman year, I brought my own dishes, towels and cleaning products. My roommates and I buy our own groceries and cook our own meals, although sometimes we will have family dinners where we cook together. You can arrange who will bring the bigger appliances before moving in with your roommate. Jenny volunteered to bring a microwave and blender when we moved into our dorm freshman year. In the event that your roommate situation does not work out like mine, having your own things will prevent you from having to share things with a stranger.

  1. Go out of your way to find fun things to do together

By this, I mean fun things other than partying so you can actually get to know your roommate. My roommates and I even make studying fun by doing it together. Going to school like UF in a town like Gainesville where there may not seem like much to do other than party forced us to search for fun things to do. We were surprised at just how much we found. Going to nature preserves, farmers markets, thrift stores and even walks on campus allowed us to explore our new home while bonding at the same time. My roommates and I have learned to make almost any situation fun, even the days we spend at home all day.

  1. Remember to focus on yourself

As I said before, college is your time to grow as an individual, and I wish I learned that sooner. Surround yourself with people who will contribute to your happiness and aid your personal-growth journey. Also, be sure to make time to take care of yourself. College can be overwhelming, but self-care is just as important as your grades. On the opposite side, do not get too caught up in social obligations and partying. Finding a balance is a challenge, but you need to do what is best for yourself. Take time to explore new interests and truly discover who you are.

Where We are Now

I never thought my best friends would be a random girl from Tennessee and a random girl from New Jersey. Now, as a junior in college, Jenny and Elizabeth are not just my best friends, but my family.

I am closer with them than I have ever been with anyone else, and we are somehow still growing closer each day. The three of us have multiple classes together this semester, and we motivate each other to excel in our studies. We still make time to goof off together, just like we did freshman year.

Jenny recently brought her Wii (yes, the old school one) to our apartment, and we play Mario Kart and Just Dance to decompress after our eight-hour school days. We even hosted an exciting and nerve-wracking Mario Kart tournament with some of our neighbors we met from across the courtyard.

Despite spending an average of 10 waking-hours together, we are still not bored of each other. When we have time, we let our minds wander to our futures after college, like what it will be when we give speeches at each other’s weddings.

“Elizabeth,” I say, holding my water bottle in the air, pretending to give a toast at her wedding. “Remember the time we stole that sign from that frat house on game day?”

“The one that says, ‘no dumping violators will be prosecuted,’” Jenny adds.

“How could I forget?” Elizabeth replies.

On that random Tuesday night in September during our junior year of college as we sat under the dim purple glow of our LED lights, the TV whispered A$AP Rocky’s lyrics, “I gotta find peace of mind.” In that moment, we knew. Despite the chaos and confusion of college, we had found peace of mind – together.

SEE ALSO: Why College Is The Right Time To Explore The Great Outdoors

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