My Dormitory Story: How Freshman Year Was Better Without a Roommate

I distinctly remember the day our Class of 2021 Facebook group got word that roommate assignments had been posted. It was chaotic but exciting, to say the least. Just as I had begun to find my assignment, there were floodings of posts about “OMG can’t wait to make memories this year with you, froomie.” Although I did random selection, I was very confident in my ability to become familiar with what could be a lifelong friend, so I wasn’t stressed.

The first name I saw was Kellen Brandt. “Of course she’s adorable, why wouldn’t she be?” “I wonder what our color schemes will be? Will she like me?” were among a few of the thoughts racing through my head. This was it—freshman year! Although I was chomping at the bit to get to know my new roomie, we soon found out that Kellen, in fact, would not be living with me. There had been a glitch in the system and she already had a roommate but had also been slotted with me. Funnily enough, she lives in the same dorm complex, writes for Her Campus, and we share a mutual taste in throw pillows in our rooms (that we could’ve been sharing together!). But I’m glad that even though we’re not roommates, we’re friends! This, however, marked the shift of my strings of bad luck in the roommate acquisition department.

After that was sorted out, I shuffled through a few other potential people in the random roommate system (three to be exact), but none of them stuck. They either transferred, found alternative living, or apparently disappeared into thin air. And I’m not going to lie, it did sort of feel like a personal offense, even if it wasn’t intentional. It was more like, “At least give me a chance!” I knew that not all my time would be spent with my roommate, but it felt so unfair to not get that experience. I felt gypped of a normal, stereotypical part of college life.

Move-in day came, and I began to fill my room with all my stuff, completely neglecting the empty bed and half a closet (so maybe that was a bonus). I didn’t bother completely occupying the full space because I was unsure if I could get a transfer-student roommate or if conflicts with current roommate pairs would result in me getting someone to live with. There was still hope. Some may ask, “Hannah, why weren’t you glad you got a double room with only one person living in it? That should be the dream.” But it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, at least not in the beginning.

I was very homesick at first, and it took a lot of effort to break out of my shell. Every day I’d come home from classes, walk to my side of the room and quietly exist because I didn’t want to disturb what could potentially be my roommate’s half. Spoiler: that other half is still unoccupied.

People with roommates, especially freshmen, have the distinct luxury of being given a live-in friend, or at the very least, a civil acquaintance, to accompany them to places (orientation, clubs, the CAFE). It was so unbelievably hard to get myself to get involved when I had no safety net of a roommate to guide me. I kind of floated around for the week of orientation, until by some lucky strike, I met the greatest group of girls. And I mean the GREATEST.

To Kaylee, Emma, Sarah, and Maria, you probably only have some slight idea of how transformative you’ve been in my freshman year alone. Although I took some warming up to (ahem, Maria, I’m talking to you), you guys welcomed me with open arms. With the fateful forming of a Snapchat group, our friend crew started humbly but has grown so much. Initially, all we did was congregate together for meals in the cafe. It became a daily expectation that we would meet on the corner of PL and the Quad to walk and eat together. But it soon blossomed into so much more than that. Our snap group is still full of confirmations about plans for when and where we dine, but it’s now also peppered with jokes that only we understand, and it provides us with yet another medium for talks and laughter—it’s better that way. Regardless of how we came to be, I was just glad that I finally had found a group, a niche.

I know I joke a lot about being the outlier in our friendship, whether it be the fact that I’m the only Mass Comm major among a sea of nursing majors, or that I’m an Illinois resident, hence why I ask, “Is that a Minnesota thing?” far too frequently (only joking about half the time)... But you turned me from an outsider looking in on college fun with friend groups to being an integral part of our own. So I’d like to thank you all.

To Kaylee, thank you for being so punctual at the corner, rain or shine, as we stand and wait for the rest of the girls. Thank you for still hanging out with me even when I manage to accidentally headbutt you semi-regularly. Thank you for living in PL so we can get to the Quad faster. Thank you for not getting angry when I correct grammar or do something too Mass Comm-ish. Thank you for being able to mimic my laugh perfectly, which will always send me into side-splitting hysterics. Thank you for being a patient, eternal ray of sunshine every day and teaching me to do the same.

To Sarah, thank you for your unfailing attempts to invite me to Butt n’ Gut or Pilates. Thank you for understanding my struggle to spend Kryzsko Cash wisely and using some of your stockpiled funds on me. Thank you for laughing at my bad jokes (even if at first it starts as a pity one). Thank you for being so persistent in inviting me to join the group. Thank you for pursuing a future as an educator, because you are one of the best-suited people I can think of to teach a new generation of students. Thank you for never failing to spread your everlasting kindness with a megawatt smile.

To Emma, thank you for ALWAYS making sure I’m put in my place. Thank you for calling me out on my made-up words that will probably will never catch on (snaining, noodie). Thank you for your unfiltered, unconditional honest opinion. Thank you for appreciating the times I’m the only one who hears your funniest comments. Thank you for sharing a fondness for Walmart Yodel Boy remixes. Thank you for loving jump scares and giving me a jumpstart on my heart when you do it, whether you mean to or not. Thank you for having the patience to repeat phrases 50x so I hear you (what deli?). Thank you for finding a way to make tough love feel like one of the best types there is.

To Maria, thank you for not killing me yet (there’s still time). Thank you for never turning down an opportunity to watch Wild Hogs or Twister, undoubtedly quoting the whole movie. Thank you for supporting all my decisions, especially when they involve ice cream. Thank you for your incomparable dance moves, your love of SNL skits, and of course, having impeccable timing when it comes to playing the Scooby Doo video (you know the one). Thank you for having a heart of gold. Thank you for being the hostess with the most-est when it comes to Friday movie nights. Thank you for being the friend in the group that was the slowest to like me, but has grown to now love me, because now you’re stuck me with me.

And while there are so many different types of friends I’ve made, these four girls are the core, and I’d be quite a different college freshman without them.

Earlier I said that I was homesick and lonely when I first moved in, and that’s true. But as time went on, my room became a sanctuary. I found courage and excitement about stepping out on my own. This led me to find even more incredible friends in Her Campus, as well as a network of loving girls who have a desire to strengthen their faith and make meaningful, lasting connections in my Chi Alpha small group. I developed self confidence; and even though it may have been easier at the time to have a built-in buddy to do things with, I learned to be alone but not lonely. My room used to feel like an empty shell, but now when I come into my room, I kick my shoes off, blast HSM on my Pandora and just unwind, uninterrupted.

I truly think my freshman year would have been drastically different had I been given someone to live with. It still would have been great, but in another way. Now that I have this insight and friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world, it’s clear that having my own room is less about missing out on the roommate experience and more about having a serene place for me, myself, and I—in the best way possible.

Being without a roommate forced me to venture out into Winona to discover myself, the world, and a sense of belonging outside of my own comfort bubble. And because of you girls, Kaylee, Sarah, Emma, Maria (among many, many other friends), I finally know where I belong.

PS - Can’t wait for a whole different kind of experience sophomore year when I’m living with these hooligans!