Let’s be honest: the best and worst college roommate stories come from living with strangers. Randomly assigned roommates can be terrifying as you wonder for weeks whether you and your new mate will get along.
“Playing house” on the playground in grade school is one thing; actually living with your friends is another. Some people will warn you against rooming with best friends in college but others say it’s no big deal.
“Living with a best friend could make or break your friendship,” says Alan Vu, a fourth-year international studies and sociology double major. “It tests the bond you’ve built with your friend and shows how well you two can get along.”
Alan has lived both on campus and off campus and mainly with friends. His roommate his first year in the dorms was a friend from his hometown whom he met through a mutual friend.
“I think it helps to establish a rapport and some connection before becoming roomies rather than not knowing what to expect,” he says.
But living with people you’re not entirely familiar with can have its perks.
“Little surprises can pop up around the corner,” says Alan, who is currently living with people he hadn’t known well before. “Like when they offer to share home-cooked food with me or are super chill about washing dishes.”
Unfortunately, not all roommate situations turn out for the best. A recent graduate, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the year she lived on campus with randomly assigned roommates led her to regret not living with friends. Two of her randomly assigned roommates were already friends who shared a room and barely spoke to her, and the girl she shared a room with had her boyfriend, who didn’t attend UCI, over all the time.
“He was practically living there! He’d leave clothes and food everywhere. They’d smoke in our room and invite his friends over,” she shakes her head. “I couldn’t stand to be in the same room as all of them, so I just ended up spending as much time away from my apartment as possible.”
But with all of her clothes and things in the apartment, she had to return once in awhile – only to discover her roommate was using her stuff.
“She’d take my earrings and jackets and lose them or ruin them. I went home once and found a huge burn mark on one of my UCI sweatshirts because her boyfriend had used it to put his cigarettes out on.”
So why didn’t she want to live with friends? “We thought it’d be stressful to deal with potential roommate drama and we didn’t want to ruin our friendship,” she says. “But, looking back, I think I should have risked it.”
It can be a risk, but there are plenty of people who have positive experiences living with people they don’t know, and who knows – maybe you’ll come out of the experience having formed close friendships with your randomly assigned roommates.
There are some things to remember: the key to successfully living with friends is to make sure you’re not spending 24 hours a day with each other. And, while it can be nice to have friends in common, it’s good to keep company with different groups of people too so you’re not always sharing the same friends, which can lead to unnecessary drama, especially if there’s conflict and people start taking sides.
Good communication is also important, not just for living situations, but in all relationships. When you’re living with someone, it’s much easier to find their annoying little habits more grating than you normally would on a day-to-day basis, but try not to bottle it up or engage in passive-aggressive behavior. Talk openly without sounding like you’re accusing one another and make sure you don’t take any criticisms as personal attacks.
Living with friends doesn’t always have to be stressful, nor does it need to be something you’re constantly worried about. And if things do turn out for the worse, just remember that your lease is up in a year and you’ll have plenty of stories to share in the future when you can look back and laugh – and who doesn’t enjoy a good “back when I was in college” story?