Host: Within the next few weeks, thousands of parents will move their kids into tightly packed dorm rooms. Chances are entering freshmen have already friended their roommates on Facebook, revealing their ethnicity, gender, home state, and sexual preference. So what happens when your teen’s college roommate is not what he or she had in mind? Messy, liberal, conservative, black, white or gay—1)traits that make a diverse student body can also create tension.
So, we’re going to begin with a letter that you got from a worried parent.
“Dear Amy: My 18-year-old son Bob is leaving for his freshman year of college. Bob just received his roommate assignment, and after friending him on Facebook, Bob discovered that his roommate is gay. Bob would prefer a straight roommate. When I called the university to ask if Bob could be assigned another roommate, the housing director 2)intimated that I was 3)persecuting the gay roommate, and that if my son didn’t start out rooming with a gay student, then Bob could go to another school. He can put in for a room change during the first two weeks of school if he wants to switch. Bob will room with the assigned roommate.”
Amy Dickinson (Columnist): The first thing that this parent did was she 4)intervened on her son’s behalf in a matter that he honestly should handle himself.
Part of the process of handing your child over—you know, it goes way back to nursery school. You know, you have to prepare your child for the next experience as well as you can, and then you need to let them have the experience themselves. And schools have in place 5)mechanisms for dealing with roommate issues. And I appreciate the fact that schools encourage students to room with their assigned roommate and to see how it goes. That’s what life is supposed to be like, you know, the whole idea.
I felt this when I dropped my own daughter off at school. A lot of our children have never shared a room. I grew up sharing a room, sharing a bathroom. There were eight people, one bathroom. How did we do it? But my daughter never shared a room and almost never had to share a bathroom. She ended up in a triple, in a bunk bed. And it really felt like—and the bathroom down the hall and you take your things in a bucket and you’re sharing a bathroom with guys.
There are a lot of shocks when it comes to school. But one of the great things about this next phase of life is it’s such an opportunity to learn about people you don’t know about. My daughter’s first roommate was Chinese, literally had come the day before from Beijing. She had never set foot in the United States.
Amy: Those two had a terrific experience. It was a good match. But you can’t know that beforehand.
Host: And Jenna is calling from Portland, Oregon. Hi, Jenna.
Jenna: Hi, there. I went to college in Colorado and I did not meet my roommate prior to moving in with her on the first day. And the minute I met her, I could tell from the clothing she wore to her attitude, to just getting that first impression, that we were not going to be friends. And what I found was actually quite contrary. And it was a very eye-opening experience because even though we had very different backgrounds, very different family experiences, very different religious backgrounds, tons of things that were different in common, we actually became friends. And one of the things that blossomed from that were all the late-night conversations of laying in bed three feet away from each other in the dark, talking about theses 6)profound things. And it really opened my mind that even though you don’t come from the same background and you don’t seem to have anything in common that you can actually still be really great roommates.
Amy: This is an amazing example. Listen to the diversity of this group is really—and that’s what college is about for a lot of people.