I didn’t get the “privilege” of experiencing dorm life until my junior year of college. I spent my first two years at the local community college my dad mandated, and then I transferred to a university in Florida that required all first-year students to live on campus.
I was not pleased. I thought the one benefit of community college, other than it being cheap, was that I could avoid student housing altogether.
Instead, I found myself in pretty much the exact situation I’d been hoping to avoid: I was crammed in an eight-man suite with a community bathroom and seven other girls, one of whom shared my room. And…just my luck! Every single one of my roommates turned out to be a freshman, while I was a 20-year-old firstborn transfer student with 64 credits and an upperclassman attitude. I’d been around younger kids my whole life, and I was not looking forward to adding seven more to the lineup. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t even a sophomore in the mix!
It’s kind of funny to me today, because it was a total foreshadowing of what was to come. Nearly all of my friends ever since that moment have been younger than me! God has a sense of humor. 😊
A few weeks before moving in, my incoming-freshman roommate friended me on Facebook. She was gorgeous, blonde, and a cheerleader. She was also two-and-a-half years younger than me and was dressed like a hillbilly in her profile picture, missing teeth and all. 😂
I had a few hesitations about this whole situation.
Adjusting to dorm life was about as easy as I expected it to be (I wrote more about it here and here), meaning, not at all. I was homesick, I struggled to get my introvert time in, everything was loud all the time, and I quickly realized the cafeteria food wasn’t nearly as good as it had been during Preview Week. (Funny how that works.)
But by the time I was packing up my dorm nine months later to move home for the summer, I was hugging my roommate goodbye, as – dare I say – tears almost threatened to spill, promising to keep in touch over the summer. I was really going to miss her.
The freshman stranger I’d been reluctant about being assigned to turned out to be a valued friend. She was (and is) funny, wise, beautiful, stylish, and spiritually mature. Despite our age and personality differences, she was a good balance to my studious, perfectionistic, neat freak ways, and she taught me a lot during the two semesters we shared a space.
Here are five things my college roommate taught me that have helped me out more times than I can count:
5. Blondes rarely look good in gray. I didn’t even like gray but wore it because it was a neutral and because everybody wore gray. And then my roommate told me she didn’t and why. I looked at pictures of myself in gray and realized she was right – most shades of gray don’t look good on me. You’ll hardly find a speck of it in my closet now or ever since. On the other hand…
4. The color black is a blonde’s best friend. My roommate also enlightened me on the fact that black looks really good on almost all blondes. Once again, she was right! I like a lot of color in my wardrobe, but I’ve added a lot more black to my closet since she shared her wisdom with me.
3. Baby powder is a cheaper (albeit messier) alternative to dry shampoo. Genius! I have oily hair and can easily go through a few cans of dry shampoo a month. But the stuff is expensive, especially the good stuff! (Sephora, I’m looking at you.) My wise-beyond-her-years roommate taught me that baby powder does the same trick for way less money. Not to mention it lasts far longer.
2. Never offer to pay on a date. My college roommate was the very first friend I texted when I was asked out on my first date because she was the only one who was married, so I figured she’d have the best advice. Most of my other friends told me it was the 21st century and the polite thing to do was to at least offer to pay, but not her! She had a different take: “Under absolutely no circumstances should you offer to pay! My husband would be offended if I had done that! If he’s asking, he pays.” End of story. She was right. Time and experience have proven that over and over again. If a guy can’t take care of a meal, there are implications about how he can (or can’t) take care of you. Let him provide.
1. Come close to God, and he WILL come close to you. I knew this truth, of course, but something about the way my roommate said it and how she lived it made it more real to me. She had a close relationship with God, had seen some cool things in her walk with him, and inspired me to be more disciplined about my own. Over the next several years, her words replayed over and over in my head as I saw more and more fruit in my relationship with Christ that I had not seen previously. Before, I’d get discouraged at the lack of immediate results and become kind of halfhearted in my spiritual disciplines. But she inspired me to press in and persevere until things happened, and happen they did! For a freshman, I guess she was pretty wise after all. 😉
I’ll be the first to admit that I was initially disappointed when I got assigned a younger roommate. I was hoping for someone exactly my age, a fellow transfer student I could spend the next four semesters with and collect my diploma with at the end of our senior year. Instead, I got one better: someone who could actually teach me something.
My college roommate was the opposite of what I was expecting and exactly who God knew I needed.
We’re still friends today – faraway friends who haven’t seen each other face-to-face in a long time – but I still miss the days when she was a regular part of my life. God put her in my life in that specific season for a specific reason. From my hair maintenance to my faith, she had an influence on my life that continues today, and I thank God he picked her for me as my first (and, so far, only) roommate.