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Monday, June 24, 2024
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Take a chance on that random roommate

No matter who you end up with, living with a stranger will be an invaluable college experience

Transitioning from high school to college can be a daunting experience. It’s a time to start fresh, leave behind the high school version of yourself and embrace personal growth.

With so many changes, it makes sense to want something within your control. It makes sense to want to try and pick the perfect freshman year roommate. But going with a random roommate is ultimately the better call because it will prepare you for the unpredictability of the real world.

When I received my room assignment the summer before arriving in Madison, I felt a mix of excitement and anxiety. Unlike many of my friends who had searched high and low for their "perfect match,” I chose to have a random roommate.

I understood the appeal of finding a roommate beforehand. It means less of an awkward period getting to know each other and a baseline level of trust. Especially for students from marginalized communities, finding a roommate you know you can be comfortable with can be a necessity. Because of this, many freshmen will search thoroughly through Facebook or choose to live with a high school or childhood friend.

But living with a high school friend can come at a cost. It can put a strain on your original relationship, especially if spending time with them begins to feel like an obligation as opposed to something you look forward to.

The qualities of a good friend and a good roommate aren't always the same. While I love my friends, I couldn't imagine sharing a living space with them. My dormitory needed to be a place where I could decompress and relax after a long day. I wasn't looking for a close friend as a roommate. I just needed someone to share a space with.

Opting for a random roommate opens you up to people you might never have met otherwise. No, my roommate and I never became best friends. True, I likely won’t see her again unless we have an accidental run-in on campus. But I have no regrets about living with a stranger. If given the choice, I would do it again.

I didn't know learning to coexist with someone was one of the most enriching experiences of my freshman year. You don't need to love your roommate. You just need to communicate effectively and respect each other's boundaries.

We developed a mutual understanding of each other's needs, whether it was leaving the lights on low so my roommate wouldn't struggle to get ready for bed at 3 a.m. or knowing to leave the room if I was working on a project late at night so my frantic typing wouldn't disturb her. Choosing a random roommate forces you out of your comfort zone and helps you develop crucial life skills. It teaches you how to live with and understand someone who might be very different from you, which is a valuable tool in any stage of life. 

Don't get me wrong, I've heard plenty of horror stories about random roommates. Living with a random roommate can result in a range of outcomes. You might end the year with a best friend, an enemy or just an acquaintance. Regardless of the outcome, the experience itself is invaluable. It pushes you to develop empathy, patience and problem-solving skills that are crucial in any relationship.

A random roommate can also help you expand your social circle. By not limiting yourself to someone you already know or someone who fits a specific profile, you open yourself up to new perspectives and experiences.

So take the gamble on a random roommate. It might be challenging at times, but the personal growth and life lessons you'll gain are worth it. Embracing the uncertainty and learning to live with someone different from yourself is an essential part of the college experience.

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You might find that the random roommate experience is one of the most rewarding aspects of your freshman year. And if nothing else, you’ll have a crazy story to tell.

Lillie Sunby is a sophomore studying psychology, communications and political science. Do you agree that it's better to live with a random roommate? Send all comments to

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