Sunday, July 19, 2015

Wisconsin Will Poses the Rare Sunday Thirsty. Roommates.

I was discouraged to read this article last month. It talks about incoming freshmen "picking" their roommates through Facebook and other social media research.

Had I been given the chance all those years ago, I would have picked someone quite like myself, and I would have been robbed of the chance of living in a quad with 3 rather dissimilar and foreign roommates who challenged the way I thought about the world and opened me up in rare and extraordinary ways.

Sure, I had some fights and problems and discomfort, but I learned a lot about getting along in the "real" world, something our social-media-obsessed young people seem to avoid now by connecting only with those they already have so much in common with.

Q: What, if anything, did the college roommate experience teach you?



College-bound students across the country are putting themselves out there.

They're not looking for love; they're picking who they're going to room with during their freshman year in an increasingly popular process known as roommate self-selection.

While the majority of schools still assign roommates, either randomly or based on answers to questionnaires, many are empowering incoming freshmen to find their own through Facebook, apps, and housing software.

Roommate self-selection provides benefits for students and schools alike, creators of these services say. But detractors believe the traditional experience of bunking with someone random offers life-long benefits.

The Rest.


  1. My freshman roommate taught me that I was the most appallingly self-righteous little snob at eighteen. Unfortunately, I did not come to this epiphany soon enough to salvage my relationship with her, but awareness of these tendencies in myself has served me well later in life. (I like to think I can keep them in check at least some of the time.)

    She also taught me what it looks like when a not-really-ready-for-college freshperson crashes, burns, and eventually drops out, and I guess having observed the process up close has helped me a bit as an instructor of first-year students (a good 25% of ours crash and burn), although I'm still not sure how to prevent it.

  2. Freshman? Nothing. Nice guy, not overly sharp.

    Sophomore year? A LOT! He was much more mature than I was and frustrated by my immaturity.
    Most useful lesson in the long run? Dragging a blushing me to a Planned Parenthood demo on birth control.
    Most artistic lesson: lots of good music like early Genesis.
    Lesson I never told my parents; How to use a whiskey bong.

  3. My freshman year roommate and I got along well and we stayed in touch for several years.

    My sophomore year turned out to be a nightmare. To finish my undergrad, I had to transfer to a university and I decided to live in the main student residence. Big mistake.

    The place made the fraternity in "Animal House" look well-disciplined and sober and nowhere near as funny. I transferred from my original floor to a different one with little improvement.

    My first roommate dropped out after 2 or 3 days and I never got to meet him.

    Three weeks later, his successor moved in. He got drunk that first night and vomited into his wastebasket, making it difficult for me to sleep.

    I changed rooms at the start of the new session in January and drew yet a third "winner". He smoked heavily and got loaded once in a while.

    Needless to say, my grades went down that year.

    I finished my undergrad by moving to a different on-campus residence but all the rooms were private and that made quite a difference.

    While a grad student, I lived on my own and I'm glad I did. I had become used to having my peace, quiet, and privacy during the time I worked in industry before I returned to university. As it turned out, I needed it as I had to concentrate on my research.

  4. I stayed in the dorms for four years. Hey, the living is easy in the dorms even if the food was hit or miss.

    Freshman year: Even experienced trippers can have a bad one and call you from outside the salvation army on the wrong side of the tracks in Las Vegas, paranoid and incoherent. That people living on trust funds don't necessarily appreciate what they have. And how to appreciate punk rock.

    Sophomore year: A number of ways to get higher than I had previously experienced and just how easy it is to mess with stoned people. The amusement to be had in being on both sides of a long-term, low-intensity practical joke war. Also, that being the sober driver is appreciated even if people give you crap about it.

    Junior year: 18 year olds come even dumber and more obnoxious than I was. And sometimes you have to cooperate with real oiks for a few minutes to avoid getting busted for their drugs. And that's why you don't want drugy roommates.

    Senior year: That a truly graceful roommate is an occasional help and almost no bother. Also that I can ignore an on-going conversation in Greek, but that the occasional English word interjected into the flow can wrench my attention away from what I was doing every time.

    Bonus term: That moving into an apartment of your own is has its downsides but is definitely worth it after four years of sharing space.

  5. My roommate was 6'8" and weighed 180 lbs. Do you know what people would say when we walked down the street together?

    "Hi, Frod!"

    What did I learn from him? That when the sky overhead is a deep blue, almost purple, the atmosphere is exceptionally transparent and the astronomical observing will be excellent that night. My roommate was another astronomy major.

    From that, I learned that what students learn from each other can be at least as valuable as what they learn from faculty. Knowing this is useful to me now.

  6. My freshman year roommate only taught me a lesson a few years later. She taught me what it looks like when people slide downward into depression, and how easy it is for a self-absorbed eighteen year old to not even notice in the moment.

    After she left school, she also inspired me to take a course on neurological disorders, and I wrote my term paper on the mechanisms and chemistry of depression. So in a very real way she helped me reach a better understanding, scientifically and personally, of this disease. It has helped me immensely as I've encountered other people who are also struggling with depression.

    But I still can't believe that I didn't even fucking notice.

  7. Oh, sure, I learned about myself and grew as a person and all that crap.

    Doing research before you live with somebody is a good thing. When I had the chance, I never passed up the opportunity to learn more about who I might live with. The only exception to this rule was my kids, who I at least knew would be a little like me. We had them anyway.

  8. I opted to be part of a suite of three for my freshman year. My thinking was that if one of them turned out to be an asshole, at least I could form an alliance with the other one. Before I showed up on campus, I knew nothing about the other two other than that they'd be dudes. I learned that I was the asshole.

    Initially, one of them seemed hard to take and I hung with the 2nd one. After a while, it became apparent that the 2nd one was too much like the high school kids that I'd been hoping to escape by going to college; the trait of forming an alliance with 2nd human to "other" a third does not necessarily make one a good person. So over time, I became better friends with the first guy, who I had originally thought was relatively more unlike me. The people he hung with were varied and pretty decent, but most of all, not so full of themselves. So I guess learned to never rest on first impressions.

    My sophomore year, I scored a single room in the same dorm. I moved off-campus for junior year, into a house where I had my own room. Senior year I began spending more time in the apartment of my future spouse, with whom I'd live a few years before I'd lose enough of my inner asshole to be a worthy companion.

    Now, my spouse. She tried the triple thing her first year, too. It turned out, she got two assholes for roommates, and they ganged up against her. From them she learned that people who have been given every advantage in life are nevertheless capable of deriving amusment from making things difficult for those who have worked for what little they have.


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