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Opinion: The case for random roommates

For many students, opting for a randomly selected roommate seems like a last resort.
Image by Wejdan al Balushi
Living with someone you don’t know might not be such a bad thing.

Getting assigned a random roommate was the best thing that happened to me freshman year. This may sound like an extreme statement, but bear with me. 

Coming to college, my biggest stressor was finding a roommate. The University of Minnesota housing offers two main options for roommate selection: you can either fill out a form with your interests and living preferences for a University match, or you and someone else can add each other to your housing forms to be paired together. 

I was desperate to find someone to add. 

I asked around to high school friends and direct-messaged people I found on incoming freshman Facebook and Instagram pages, but ultimately nothing stuck. Maybe due to my lack of follow-through, finding a roommate proved too time-consuming. 

So I hit submit on my form with an empty roommate box and hoped for the best. 

In the summer, we got our roommate assignments and contact information. My roommate and I started sharing a few awkward texts, so my stress continued. Would we talk to each other? Would I be walking on eggshells the whole year? Did we even have anything in common? 

When fall rolled around, I was proven wrong in almost every way. I was correct. We didn’t have much in common — different interests, different hobbies and different music tastes. I quickly learned, however, that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

We both seemed to enter the living situation open to meeting someone new and by the end of September, we were almost inseparable. I not only made a new friend, I made friends with someone I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Now, I recognize my experience isn’t the reality for everyone, but there can be other positives to living with someone you don’t have an established relationship with. 

For Emily Roe, a third-year University student, her random roommate allowed her to have balance in her social life while removing the pressure of needing to be best friends. 

“I knew she had friends and I knew I was also making my own, so I didn’t feel too stressed or pressured about always hanging out,” Roe said. “But we could also come back to the room and debrief about everything we had going on separately because she was detached from my friend group. So that was good.”

Roe’s roommate, Charlotte Perron, shared a similar sentiment. 

“I came to the University with a lot of friends from high school, and we would hang out all the time,” Perron said. “It was nice to be able to have somebody new in my room, and an escape from other people if I needed it.”

For some students, living in the location you want can outweigh the comfort of living with somebody you already know. Margaret Xiao, a third-year student, opted to be matched with a random roommate her sophomore year in an off-campus apartment. 

“I ended up going random because I just kind of prioritized the proximity to my classes, rather than trying to live with one of my friends,” Xiao said. 

In addition to getting to live in an ideal location by campus, having a random roommate allowed Xiao to focus on other goals she had. 

“It was kind of like a trade-off,” Xiao said. “Because I didn’t really have as close of a relationship with my roommate, I didn’t end up being as involved socially, and then my academics improved.”

As I said, having a random roommate was the highlight of my freshman year. I lucked out and still consider her one of my closest friends. As I’ve learned, sometimes the ideas we have in our minds about the types of people we get along with can be limiting. But even if you and your random roommate aren’t attached at the hip, it can still be a rewarding experience. 

For any incoming students or even those looking for a roommate in the future, give serendipity a chance. It’s not often we are introduced to someone completely outside of our circles. 

Maybe you’ll make a new friend or maybe you won’t. Ultimately, there are a lot more positives to living with someone random than you may think.

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  • MMH
    Jun 20, 2024 at 4:28 pm

    Love this! It’s very easy to do the easy thing, i.e. live with people you know. However those who challenge themselves learn more about themselves and grow interpersonal skills in the long run. Taking chances pays off!