The Roommates-to-Friends Pipeline
Seniors who have remained close friends with their randomly-assigned freshman year roommate discuss what makes this relationship so special.
One of the more nerve-racking moments of the summer before coming to Dartmouth is learning who your roommate will be. Most students will only be lucky enough to know one or two of their new classmates, so this roommate might represent your first connection to college. I know I speak for everyone when I say that we all hope our first roommates will be people we can count on.
Of course, we have all heard at least one roommate horror story. My personal favorite is that of a roommate who moved into an abandoned single to flee their roommate just two days after arriving at Dartmouth for the 2021 spring term. Yet, the most common Dartmouth roommate relationship I’ve heard about from other members of the Class of 2024 is that of neutrality, in which the roommates have an amicable, if distant, relationship. This makes the close friendships that can come from these roommate assignments all the more unique, especially the ones that have lasted four years.
Riley Gordon ’22 and Rohith Mandavilli ’22 were randomly matched into a one-room triple their freshman year and became friends over the fall term. Both of them were more excited than nervous, and Gordon was more worried about their cramped living conditions — three people, all in one room? — rather than who his roommates would be.
In contrast, Louisa Gao ’22 was “definitely a little bit nervous” about who her freshman year roommate would be, having come to Dartmouth from a boarding school where she had a random roommate during her first two years of high school.
“One of those [random roommates] definitely worked out a lot better than the other,” Gao said.
Gao knew from “day one” that her roommate was going to be a close friend. However, for Gordon and Mandavilli, it took a particular mystery for them to start bonding.
“Halfway through the fall term, we discovered that someone every day had been walking into our room, taking the air freshener plugged into the wall and moving it into the communal bathroom,” Gordon recalled. “We put together an investigation, rounded up suspects and jokingly grilled them.”
While they never cracked the case, it represented the beginning of their friendship, one that developed over countless games of Cards Against Humanity and Quiplash.
On the other hand, it took a full term before Grayce Gibbs ’22 and her roommate realized that they were developing a close friendship.
“We spent a lot of time together in the fall, but I think at the beginning of winter term, we came back and decided we really were friends,” Gibbs said. “We have a joke that freshman fall… she hadn’t decided whether or not we were friends. Sometimes, I’ll mention something that I’ve told her about and she doesn’t remember, and she’ll say ‘that was freshman fall!’”
For Gao and her roommate, it was the similarities between the two that made them great roommates and friends.
“We are both pretty neat,” Gao said. “There were definitely days when both of our sides got messy, but there were very few conflicts, which is something that our other friends had issues with.”
Even when roommates had very different interests, as with Mandavilli and Gordon, a shared sense of humor shaped their friendship.
“We’re both very sarcastic, carefree and we don’t take each other seriously as well,” Mandavilli said. “That banter started early and kept going, and because of that we are very comfortable around each other.”
Gordon seemed to know this when he dryly stated that he was “definitely cleaner than [Mandavilli] is” as a difference between the two.
Gibbs concurred with this point of shared humor, noting that she could not tell whether the jokes she and her roommate shared was the cause of their friendship or came as a result of it
“We have very different academic interests,” Gibbs said. “She thinks everything I do is horribly boring; I think everything she does is horribly boring. But… we can literally sit and talk for forever… when we’re together we’re non stop laughing.”
Mandavilli, Gibbs and Gordon all emphasized how unique these friendships were, especially considering the conflicts that many of their friends got into with their freshman roommates.
“I definitely think this is unique. I’ve talked to a lot of my friends, and there aren’t too many people who are still friends with their roommate as a senior,” Gibbs said.
Gordon put this statement more bluntly.
“Some people like their roommates. Some people don’t, and the ones who don’t find new roommates.”
All of these seniors used the word “lucky” to describe how they felt looking back on how the random roommate assignment went. Even though they do not room together anymore for a variety of reasons, they all have maintained close friendships. These friendships will last beyond college. Mandavilli added that even though their career paths will take them in different directions, he and his roommate will stay friends.
“I’m gonna be an engineer somewhere, and [Gordon] is going places,” Mandavilli said. “I’m just really grateful that the survey worked as well as it did.”
Grayce Gibbs is a former news staffer for The Dartmouth.