In the United States, when someone begins college they usually live at the school in little apartments with other students, even if the school is in the student’s hometown. The school arranges everything and picks who you’ll live with depending on what time you go to bed, how clean you like your room, and if you’d rather live in a building with all girls, all boys, or both.
When I started studying Visual Arts at the Javeriana in 2008, I could not find a roommate anywhere because Colombians tend to live at home with their parents until they can afford their own house. I rented a studio apartment by myself for a few months until I finally found a roommate, a friend who was taking a break from her Graphic Design studies to work. My friends in the United States all have horror stories of their first experience with a roommate; my friends who like to party had roommates who liked to go to bed early, my friends who weren’t that tidy had roommates with severe cleaning habits, my friends who weren’t very religious had Christian roommates… and my roommate experience wasn’t much different.
I had been there for 3 months and didn’t know one neighbor from the next apartment, while she learned their names, professions, and was even able to convince one to let us use his refrigerator in the space of a week. Where she was open and friendly, I was skeptical and nervous. I danced in the living room in my underwear to ABBA, she remained fully clothed tapping her feet to Nickelback. And most of all, she cleaned. I didn’t. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that she probably pent up a lot more anger at me than I chose to acknowledge. After a few months we went our separate ways when she moved back in with her mom due to financial troubles, and within the year I moved back to the United States.
Like most of my friends who have now been living with roommates for 2 or 3 years, I don’t regret the experience. For all the minor arguments, stress, and moments when you feel that you could actually commit murder, there are even more wonderful moments of happiness. My friends with the clean roommates, the religious roommates, the partying roommates, all have remained close friends with them because they were the first people to see them totally unaided and usually helpless. They were the people who showed them who they really were and helped them change into a more accommodating person. My roommate helped me be a little more clean, a little more helpful in the maintaining of a house, a little more understanding and giving. She cheered me up when life got me down and re defined “girl time” in magical Crepes & Waffles ways.
In turn, I think she tends not to be as fully clothed all the time in the privacy of her own home. But one can only hope.