You’re not alone. I did it, too. I ran home from the train station one sweltering summer day and started sifting through the mail. On the bottom of the pile was a brown envelope from Branford College. Inside was a list of the strangers with whom I would spend the next four years.
I skimmed the list and found my name. “Yes! I’m not on the fifth floor!” I exclaimed. My dad let out a sigh of relief. No lower back pain this time around. I can bring more stuff!
“THAT’S my roommate!” I slid into a chair. All of the pre-housing-assignment stress evaporated. I knew my roommate’s name, and her hometown — Camp Hill, Pa. — a place I knew nothing about, except that it was far from my inner-city Chicago home.
I came to Yale expecting all of my suitemates to shop at L.L. Bean and watch Felicity. But I knew that we wouldn’t necessarily have all the same interests. I was in for a bigger surprise.
The first month, I was overwhelmed by everyone’s uniqueness. I even began to pretend to be someone else. I vacuumed our shedding rug almost obsessively and folded my roommate’s wet towels when she forgot. I was never this clean before.
A month later, with midterms and college screws consuming our days, Yale has become our permanent home. We have begun to revert to our normal selves, in some cases the selves that we hid in our closets during the first weeks of school. Now that I’ve tripped on my roommate’s shoes in the morning more than thirty times, I can confidently say that the nitty gritty, no-nonsense college life is upon us.
My suitemates and I are as different as the four great powers of the Cold War. That is, if Stalin enjoyed a naked picture of Prince above his desk and Eisenhower thought Anime was far cooler. We are not the Brady Bunch suite. No one calls us “the girls.” Rather, we have differences over territory and background music.
This is not to say, however, that my suite is inescapably divided. A couple of weeks ago, we inaugurated the idea of monthly “suite dinners.” Denisse, a native Californian, took us to a shady Mexican restaurant across town. I guzzled down “Sindral Mundet,” sparkling apple juice, and I realized that the diversity of our suite wasn’t going to be a hindrance to my life, but rather a fascinating aspect of it.
What kink makes our suite work? During a rare moment in which all of my suitemates were in the room, I braved this question and asked. Actually, I asked them what they don’t like about me.
My roommate, Ellie, said that it’s hard to get used to living with strangers. She still had complaints, however. That I fold her wet towels in the morning and sometimes put her laundry in her laundry bag bothers her.
“But our room is so small. Your clutter is closing in on me!” I replied. OK, it may have been too mother-like to begin cleaning up after others. Maybe I’m the “suite Nazi” after all.
When I ventured into Jessica and Denisse’s much cleaner room, I found Jessica hovered over Plato. Jessica has over 20 pairs of pants, not including jeans. Denisse has a lip ring which she can be found disinfecting at 3 a.m.
One might ask how Denisse and Jessica were roomed together in the first place. Perhaps it is the fact that they have the same black, nylon rain jacket from the Gap in size small. Or maybe it’s that they both have open attitudes about almost anything.
There are other commonalities too — Jessica and I struck up a conversation last night about those cute pants she saw on the J. Crew site. Some suites go out together on Friday night; we shop online.
Ellie and I worship Paul McCartney and mint chocolate chip ice cream. I like that we have similarities, but we’ll gain so much more from Yale if we enjoy our differences, too.
Go into your closet and look at your suitemates’ shoes. Do his gym shoes look like yours? Now look at the bottom of one. Is there dirt? Ask him about it. Listen to him tell you about how he went tomato-picking last week or how he used to coach baseball for underprivileged children. We all have stories, so listen well.
Honestly, we will survive the social “shuffle” of freshman year. My good friends may not live with me, but my suitemates and I will certainly not just be “living” together by the end of the year. We are learning new things from each other, about different places and different ways of viewing our lives.
Interspersed in this jumble of a cappella mania, French verb conjugations and shady “suite dinners,” we are all returning to our normal selves, and perhaps becoming new versions of us, too.
Sarah Weiss is a freshman in Branford College. Her columns appear on alternate Wednesdays.