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An Open Letter to My First Year Roommate

You were not at all what I was expecting.

I was the girl who wanted to walk into her dorm room on the first day of university and meet a girl who was her twin. We would instantly bond over all of our similarities and become best friends, doing everything together and navigating this crazy new world with a lifelong companion by our side.

On the other hand, I also had this sick dream that you would be my exact opposite – a party animal that would try to get me out of my comfort zone. You would drag your inexperienced new roommate to all the coolest parties on campus, and I would finally get out of my own head and meet the people I had dreamed of in high school. Don’t blame me for this one – I’ve read way too many romance novels that started with this exact scenario.

You, my friend, fell somewhere in the middle of these two possibilities, I think.

I arrived at our room on move-in day and you were nowhere to be found. I soon learned that you had arrived two weeks earlier because you were a varsity soccer player. Anyone who knows me knows that I am about the farthest thing from an athlete, so my dreams of becoming BFFs with my roommate quickly started to drift away. Also, you only brought six pairs of shoes with you, which seemed ludicrous to me and my mom, who had taught me that a woman can never have too many shoes.

(Sidenote: apparently six pairs is the average number of shoes that one brings to university, so I guess I was the weirdo on this one with my basketful.)

Anyway, while I was in shock over your lack of footwear, you were amazed at how many books I had brought with me. Suffice to say, you and I were pretty much as different as two people could be – in fact, we’ve often discussed how one of us must have lied on our roommate questionnaire!

I’ll admit, at first I resented you for not being the kind of roommate that I had wanted, and I envied you for already being settled in. It seemed like you always had somewhere to be, while I sat alone in our room making my way through this completely new experience on my own. I know this wasn’t your fault, and you were busy and couldn’t have known how I was feeling, as we were both pretty quiet with one another for the first couple of months, but that didn’t make it any less difficult.

But you also challenged me – you taught me that I can’t always have everything my way, and your absence taught me that I needed to get out there and meet new people. I couldn’t just expect to be friends with someone because of our proximity, and I couldn’t expect friends to just appear because I was sitting here, waiting. I needed to push myself and, by not allowing me to use you as a crutch (no matter how unintentionally on your end), you helped me.  

While I had always thought that I had this perfect roommate image in my head, I’m so grateful that you are the one I got. Because, although I’m glad for the times that you were around when we could talk and laugh with one another and realize that we do have more in common than we originally thought, I was fooling myself by thinking that I could live with another person five feet away from me all the time for an entire year. I’m the type of person that needs some time to herself every once in a while so, in actuality, you were the perfect roommate. I got the best of both worlds. I had a roommate some of the time, but there were also times where it was almost as if I had a single room, which I grew to love.

My point is you weren’t what I expected, but I’m thankful that we got matched with one another (even if we may never know how they managed to put us together!). I’d heard horror stories of roommates from first year, so you have no idea how appreciative I am that we have no stories to contribute.

I don’t think we ever would have been friends if we hadn’t lived together – our paths just wouldn’t have crossed and, even if they had, our personalities are so different that I don’t think either of us would have given the other a second glance. We are total opposites – from sleep schedules to study habits – but, somehow, I think we lived well together. I would talk about the books I was reading and you would talk about soccer plays, and I don’t think either one of us had any idea what the other was saying, but I think that’s what made us work. We could go days without talking to one another and somehow it wasn’t weird or awkward; that was just our normal.

I hope we’ll stay in touch after we no longer sleep five feet away from each other but, if we don’t, then just know that you will always be a part of the good times from my university experience – from getting all the floor gossip from you to just being able to sit in comfortable silence with one another – even if we did bicker constantly about having the lights on or off!

My advice to incoming first years would be this: don’t assume that you’re going to become best friends with your roommate. Maybe you will and that’s great but, more likely than not, you won’t, and that’s okay too. You can’t expect that your roommate is going to be a mirror-image of yourself, but just because the two of you have differences, it doesn’t mean you can’t live well together. Maybe you’ll surprise each other, and become friends and learn things about yourselves and each other, despite those differences.

There are things that I would like to go back and change about my first year in university but you, my roommate, will never be one of them.


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I am a freshmen at the University of Western Ontario in the Arts and Humanities program. I think I am going to major in English Literature, and after I complete my undergrad, I am hoping to go to Law School. Books have always been my safe place, my escape from the real world - I have always been more of a reader, but with this new phase of my life starting, I decided to try my hand at writing. I guess we're about to find out how that goes.
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