Notre Dame is probably one of the few institutions left that requires their first-year students to live with a roommate, for a full year, who is randomly assigned to them. I remember the summer before freshman year when my home friends were scouring their future university’s various “Class of 2025” Instagram pages for a potential roommate. Surely, it is a daunting task to try and select a roommate from only three to five photos and a generic caption. If I had a nickel every time I read the statement “I love to go out, but I am also down for a chill night in,” I might be able to make a dent in my tuition. But as part of Notre Dame’s ambition to create a real community, without exclusivity or isolation of a particular student, random roommates are assigned to each incoming first-year, as well as a random room assignment. Unfortunately, that means you are less likely to coordinate your room to look like a perfect Pinterest photo with matching bedding and posters.
Maybe I am not the best to speak on Notre Dame’s process, considering I transferred to ND as a sophomore and spent my first year of college at SUNY Binghamton, a state school in New York. However, being a transfer student makes it your “first year” at Notre Dame, so I was assigned not one, but five random roommates in a Lewis Hall six-chick for my sophomore year. Having a bad random roommate experience at my previous institution, I wasn’t sure if I could “trust the process” again. I mean, what if my new roommate planned to steal my snacks or wake up for the day at 4 p.m. just like my old roomie? What if my roommate did their laundry once a semester, or didn’t want to share a fridge? I couldn’t believe that once again I was going from having my own room my whole life (I don’t have any sisters), to sleeping five feet away from a stranger who could have smelly feet or snore louder than my dad (actually that would be quite impressive).
When I wheeled my cart full of clothes and bedding up to my room and met Julia, my current roommate, I realized that maybe this wouldn’t be a repeat of last year's offenses. As a fellow New Yorker, I could appreciate Julia’s love for “Goodfellas” and her willingness to make me pasta for dinner when we both missed a home cooked meal. Meanwhile, she seemed to appreciate my opinion that rap music is superior to country music. Also, we both agreed that New Jersey is the worst: probably the only thing that a Long Islander and someone from Westchester can agree on.
Some common fears that first years tend to have is the possibility of opposing sleep schedules or study habits compared to those of your roommate. Maybe they will talk or breathe too loud, invite over guests without asking or show you TikToks that aren’t funny in the slightest. These are all valid reasons to dislike someone, but you have to remember that, in the future, you are going to be dealing with or working with people who you dislike all the time. Asking your roommate to clean something up or to be quieter can be uncomfortable, but with that awkwardness comes valuable communication skills.
Notre Dame’s goal is to throw you into an environment with someone that comes from a different background or has different interests than you so that you can both coexist and learn from each other.
Julia often studies way later into the night than I do, and her side of the room tends to be more disorganized then my type A, neat freak personality would allow. But, I can sincerely thank ND for introducing me to this Fortnite playing, hot-chip-loving genius. I cheer on Julia when she practices Rihanna’s Super Bowl performance dance choreography (an activity that she rehearses every weekend), and she cheers me on when I bore her with the arm exercises I have been doing in an effort to get huge guns. Julia is a triplet and her brother has autism, so Julia has joined a neuroscience lab and does research to learn more about autism and how disabilities can affect the outcomes of court cases. She is truly passionate and inspires me everyday, and she has more Fortnite wins than should be humanly possible.
Maybe you will come to Notre Dame and find your Julia, or maybe the most you say to your roomie is “hello” and “goodbye.” Regardless, this is a new and challenging experience that will help each and every one of you grow as a person and strengthen the Notre Dame community.