School is pretty much back in full swing for students everywhere. Syllabuses have already disappeared into the depths of backpacks. Studying, homework, or the procrastination of both has certainly already begun. Students are starting to get settled in with their randomly assigned dorm mates...that is, if they go to a university in the United States. Recently, Twitter was abuzz with British students in disbelief that Americans share dorm rooms. And frankly, American students are equally shooketh by the fact that that isn’t the norm in Britain.
One Twitter user named Nora seems to have struck an initial chord with college students in both countries, tweeting “wait in American unis you share the rooms? like actually have two beds in the same room??????????” Half of the responses are people nodding in agreement like, “Yep, that’s weird.” The other half are people looking around like, “Wait...y’all don’t do that?!” Nora’s apparently controversial revelation has been retweeted over 1,200 times, prompting a conversation of which country’s dorm situation is superior.
I don’t know many people who would have passed on the opportunity to have a single dorm room, especially if it didn’t come at a higher cost. However, rooming with a random person does seem to be a rite of passage for most American college students, if for no other reason than getting to commiserate with your friends about your roommate woes. For many of today’s freshman, college is their first experience sharing a room. Navigating that shared space and roommate relationship is arguably one of the biggest tests students have to take during their time in college.
English author Sarah Perry joined in the conversation in response to a story about two American freshman who decked out their shared dorm room. “I will never ever accept that American students have to share a room. Ever,” Perry tweeted, “It's the US. Their FRIDGES are big enough to live in. STOP THIS.” To be honest, Perry kind of has a point.
For a country that prides itself on bigger and better and made “supersize” a thing, it is pretty surprising that we’d cram two young adults into a twelve-foot by sixteen-foot room and be like, “Okay! Enjoy! Try to stay alive!” As one Twitter user pointed out, it’s even more ridiculous when you consider the amount of money most college students are paying for tuition, room, and board. An estimated 70 percent of college students graduate with student loans they’ll need to pay off. That adds up to over $1.4 trillion in collective student debt for all Americans. So, it does seem strange to cut financial corners when it comes to living arrangements.
Some British students got a taste of communal living last year when enrollment at one university spiked as a response to Brexit. The University of Warwick had a shortage of living accommodations, causing students to share single rooms or even be temporarily put up in a hotel. “Not only is this situation utterly unacceptable, it is avoidable,” a statement on the student union’s website read. It continued that the situation demonstrated “negative effects of systemic failures within the University and the dangers of a marketised [sic] education system whereby student welfare is traded off against money in the bank.”
As previously mentioned, figuring out how to live with a complete stranger often requires some tough and awkward conversations. Many students make roommate contracts to establish those physical and metaphorical boundaries. As anyone who’s ever been sexiled from their college dorm room knows, establishing those boundaries is a necessary conversation. And yes, putting socks and scrunchies on doors as a signal is unfortunately a real thing.
Sharing a dorm room isn’t destined for failure. In fact, many people on Twitter talked about how it helped them grow as a young adult. Speaking from my own experience, my random roommate was a dream. We stalk each other regularly on social media and try our best to keep in touch (Sup, Hannah?). While maybe not as cushy as living in a single, having a roommate can certainly work out more than okay.
Additionally, anything that helps us all learn to live together and be a little bit less of a dick is probably for the better.