But despite my worries, my roommate and I developed a strong relationship and are rooming again together this year. We still don’t really share interests, friends or schedules. Sometimes we only see each other for a few minutes a day. But we know that we can count on each other, and I value that.
It wasn’t immediately apparent to me how our relationship worked out so well. Princeton obviously tries to promote diversity — I don’t think it was a coincidence that my roommate and I have so many differences. But we could have just as easily not lived together again this year. If it is Princeton’s duty to promote diversity by putting people with different backgrounds in the same room, it was our duty to do more than just coexist. We had to try to understand each other.
My roommate and I were curious. I wanted to know what she thought was so fascinating about numbers and computer code, and I told her about why I wanted to study education. She made me think about business in a way I never had before when she said that she wanted to create something that would connect people. I realized that, on a deeper level, we have a lot of the same goals for ourselves — at Princeton, and in life. My roommate is practical and decisive, while I am more conscientious and intuitive. But we learned last year that lasting diversity happens when we realize that being different makes us stronger.
I had always assumed that I accepted diverse people and experiences, but I had never been tested before coming to this campus. My roommate was my first friend who didn’t hold most of the same values that I did and didn’t have similar plans for her life. But exactly for these reasons, the relationship I have with my roommate is one that I treasure. I think that everyone on this campus, especially freshmen, should allow themselves the opportunity to strengthen a relationship that they originally thought might not last past freshman week, the first semester or the first year.
At the beginning of the year, freshmen are thrown into many situations with randomly assembled groups — roommates, Outdoor Action or Community Action, ’zee groups. These relationships are hugely important in the first few weeks when these are the only people you know but can soon fade into the background. You will join clubs and organizations and meet people with shared interests and similarities. You will find your niche, and that’s good.
But even though an important part of the Princeton experience is finding people who share your passions, an equally important part is befriending people you never thought you would find. So as the year continues, have lunch with your friend from OA again. Make some time to really talk to your roommate. Even if it seems difficult to break the ice, it is possible to find common ground.
Late last semester, my roommate and I were talking about how so many of our relationships tend to be directed by proximity — either people we lived near, or people we spent a lot of our time with in groups, clubs or classes. She mentioned that she never would have gotten to know me, let alone even meet me, had we not been randomly assigned to each other. “How many other Sarahs are out there who I’ll never get to meet?” she said. My roommate was joking, but what she said stuck with me. In her 2009 Opening Exercises address, President Shirley Tilghman encouraged incoming freshmen to “use your time at Princeton to ‘encounter the other.’ ” This sounds like quite a grand goal, but it’s actually as simple as taking the time to really listen and understand the people we are already thrown together with, like roommates. We realized that neither of us was as much “the other” as we had thought. All we had to do was open a bag of pita chips and start talking.
Sarah Schwartz is a sophomore from Silver Spring, Md. She can be reached at email@example.com
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/20/31173/