The Dorm Is Where The Heart Is

I remember before coming to Kalamazoo College that one of the first things that everyone wanted to know – complete strangers and family members alike – was what my living situation would be. My plan was always the same, and I told them so: I didn’t really know anyone from my incoming class, and so I would “go in blind,” as most first-year students at K do. Though the idea of doing so didn’t have me bouncing off the walls with excitement, it also didn’t fill me with terror. But most of those around me, for whatever reason, seemed to believe I should have more worried than I was.

Going in blind, huh?” they would say. “Good luck. I hope she’s not crazy or anything.”

Just be careful. Keep an eye on your stuff. You never know – she could be a thief.”

Let’s just hope she doesn’t have too many ‘guests’ over too often. Am I right?”

I wish I was making this up, but I genuinely received comments like these and others. They always confused me, and, eventually, grew to annoy me. Perhaps it was naive, but I wasn’t especially concerned about my future roommate stealing my stuff or having too many “guests” in our room or even being “crazy.” I was inclined to believe that the housing folks at the College would take my housing application seriously and pair me up with someone who seemed, at least on paper, to be a good match for me.

My trust was not misplaced. I ended up rooming with a girl named Danielle, “Dani” for short. Though the housing office gave us the other’s phone numbers and we texted throughout all of August, Dani was quiet at first when we met. But then, I suppose, so was I. The first few weeks of living together during fall quarter had some moments of awkwardness, mostly because the two of us had never had to share a room with anyone else before. We could both tell that the other was trying her best to make a good impression, which we appreciated, but we weren’t especially close right away.

And then, early into winter quarter, it was as if a flip had been switched. Dani and I found rather suddenly that we had a lot of common interests, and that translated into a series of effortless interactions that lead to a genuine friendship. We both mourned the death of Vine by texting one another a series of compilations. We belted along to songs from Hamilton together, complete with water bottle thrusts in the air during “Satisfied.” She convinced me to watch The Office, her favorite TV show of all time, and in turn, she started watching Mad Men, which was mine. We went to ZooFlicks together pretty regularly as well, catching both critically-acclaimed films like Moonlight and La La Land together as well as crowd favorites like Moana and Rogue One. By the time spring quarter rolled around, I was so used to getting sandwiches or mini pizzas with Dani at the Richardson Room (more commonly referred to as “Stacks”) that I rarely went without first checking to see if she wanted to come with. Finally, Dani, a black belt, convinced me to sign up for an on-campus Tae Kwon Do class with her this semester under the condition that she would take a theater class with me later on.

Despite our newfound friendship, Dani and I weren’t attached at the hip, which made the situation work even better for me. Instead, she grew to become close with some of the friends I made through my first-year seminar, and I got to know people through her as well. What’s more, besides Tae Kwon Do, we have never had a class together (with her being an intended computer science and Spanish double major and me an intended English and history double major), so we weren’t likely to get sick of one another. Not too long ago, all of these factors convinced Dani and me that were a good match and should room together for another year – and this remains our intention as our first year at K comes to a close.

Even though I gush about Dani, I understand that my situation with her isn’t exactly typical. I know that most randomly-assigned roommates don’t grow to like each other as much as we do or become as close as we have. But I also know that I didn’t believe the stereotype that girls living together is destined to become a catty mess of fights and passive-aggressive side-eyes. There are no guarantees in life, and that certainly includes someone’s first-year living arrangement. It is not likely that your rooming situation will be totally without problems – mine certainly wasn’t. But it is highly unlikely that every waking (and resting!) moment with your roommate, be they randomly assigned by the Office of Residential Life or hand-selected by you, will be a living hell.

The best advice I can offer is to be friendly and open; if you walk into your room on the first day with a cold shoulder and a sour expression, convinced that you and your roommate are doomed to dislike each other, you’re very likely to be correct. But even if you put your best foot forward and you and your roommate never become more than casual acquaintances, that’s no huge loss either. Getting to know your roommate is only one method among many of finding lifelong friends at Kalamazoo College – but it’s certainly one that’s worth an open mind.

– Addie Dancer ’20