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Learning through Sharing: Roommates Provide Incoming Freshmen Valuable Social Experiences for Years Beyond

Elaine Wan

Most incoming freshmen are crowded into a quad, triple or a double for a year unless they decide to live in MacGregor House or off campus. Freshmen pay the same fee for room and board like all the upperclassmen but they will share your little corner of the campus with at least one more person. Is that fair?

If you are a freshman you would probably say, "No." But we (upperclassmen) have been there and done that. And when freshmen become upperclassmen they get the privilege to say the same thing to the new incoming freshmen. I had my own room at home, so it took me a long time to adjust to life with two other girls in McCormick Hall, room 201. Now when I look back, I'm ever thankful that Emily and Aparna were there with me every minute of my freshman year.

Besides taking physics, chemistry, or caluclus freshman year, MIT will also teach you how to share your life with your roommates for the next eight months. This course requires 24 hours of preparation every day. Expect surprise parties, daily random conversations, possible weekly blunt arguments, monthly delicious study breaks and sporadic fits of craze. A final test is available for those especially irritable during finals week. Failure to pass this course will result in a somewhat unhappy residential situation for the first year.

There are no recitations or labs so if you run into problems, contact your house tutor or house manager. In extreme cases of confusion, contact Nightline. I believe a successful college life includes balancing a good academic record with a healthy social life. By the time you finish your undergraduate life at MIT,hopefully you will be able to do more than shake the hand that gives you the diploma. A big smile and a thank you is in order.

My ex-roommates once told me we would have been very good friends if we didn't have to live with each other. It is a new year, I have a single now and we are all very good friends. For the last year, my roommates and I had to cope with each other's different sleeping patterns, work habits, interests, hobbies and cooking preferences. One of us cooked meat with soy sauce, another curry and hot sauce and the other with tomato sauce, crushed oregano and basil.

We all had different classes first term and tried to stay with the lifestyle we were accustomed to at home. I know I tried very stubbornly to be able to get enough sleep. We came from different families from different states, grew up influenced by different cultures, listened to extremely opposite music and our favorite colors clashed when put together. We must have been three clueless freshmen to our floormates.

But that is what the first year is all about, adjusting. We had arguments concerning closet space, noise levels, and neatness. I think this is a good time to mention that Emily, Aparna and I were randomly assigned to room together.

We had extremely fun and crazy times together too. We attended Theta Xi's black light party, made pancakes during McCormick study breaks, rushed to LSC movies, had non-violent fights with my pink overly puffed up pillows, and dyed our hair on Halloween.

Somehow amongst all our differences we were able to find similarities that brought us to the Cambridge to attend the same college. I guess that the beauty of our relationship budded when we found that we had similarities. Adjusting your lifestyle so that you can live with others can mean spending less time on the phone, listening to the your music with headphones or walking quietly at night. It also means talking to your roommates about your differences, views, and problems. But from all this you can learn to compromise with a smile, to be confident about your strengths, to be patient and to be considerate to others.

These are skills that a freshman must learn and that will be useful in your future life. These were the same skills I used in making friends, working with others on problem sets and talking with professors. My freshman year at college has improved my role within in my social circle and my family. From my roommates, I've learned more about their views on life, culture and outlooks for the future.

Aparna has taught me the psychology behind maternal values and stress relief. Emily has taught me how to format my hard drive and how to make coffee cake. These are skills that I will take with me into my own family life and my own career. Roommates can give you comfort, advice and consolation which you will undoubtedly need in your freshman year.

So if you think that living with one, two or three other people in a few hundred square feet of room will be a very hard thing to do, try to make the best of every bad situation. Many upperclassmen choose to stay in their double or triple the following year because they love sharing their life with other people. Your roommates can be your friends, and your friends can help you make your first year at MIT enjoyable, fun and successful. If you still aren't convinced, then just think about how nice it will be when you do get a little corner on campus you can call your own next year.