Freshmen: talk to your suitemate(s). Really.

My name is Sam, and I’m a junior at Calvin. During my first year (2019-20), I had a roommate and one suitemate. My roommate and I got to know each other over occasional breakfasts. We had a few emotionally vulnerable conversations when the need arose. But we were mostly distant. We both were in long-distance romantic relationships. We also both had closer friends elsewhere on campus. And we were fine with that (and that’s definitely fine generally). 

We were also very distant with my suitemate. He cordially advised that we poop in the CJ. He graciously forgave me for stealing a shower’s worth of his shampoo. He had perhaps one other conversation with me that year. He was there, and I knew it, since I’d hear his TV. But mostly, we never talked. And we were fine with that. 

But why didn’t we talk? 

As the first-year student, I expected that he, the sophomore, would be the one to initiate friendships with us. He’d be a mentor to us, who were younger and less experienced with Calvin. My strategy was to wait. If he wanted to talk to me, he’d talk to me. And, of course, he really would talk to me — he’s the sophomore, right?

In the end, none of these expectations were exactly true. We had little in common — maybe this was part of why he didn’t start conversations with us. My roommate was older because of a gap year. I already knew campus from being a professor’s kid. And both of us enjoyed studying more than our suitemate did. 

March 2020 came with tragedy and loss for us all. But for us, the pandemic followed another loss: our suitemate dropped out of Calvin that February. It’s hard to say what role, if any, our suitemate relationship (or lack thereof) played in his decision to leave. That said, I still sometimes wonder what both my suitemate and I might’ve gained from a friendship right in the place where we lived. Who knows? What was fine might’ve been better. First-year students, this may not be your exact scenario. Nevertheless, I say to you: be intentional. Initiate a friendship with your suitemate(s). If it doesn’t work, definitely hold no grudges. But leave the door open — you really could be surprised. As a sophomore, I didn’t wait, and I have no regrets. People across the bathroom did tons to make 2020-21, which was otherwise terrible in many ways, such a sweet year for me. 

Even if it seems like you have nothing in common with them, give it a try: talk to your suitemate(s). 

I don’t promise miracles, but I do promise sophomores don’t bite.