Students new and old reflect on roommate pairing process

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Chilcott Hall at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 16, 2022. Alexia Lara/The Occidental

When Oliver Otake* (junior), Antonio Cabello-Sanchez (junior) and Colin Thom (sophomore) first moved into Pauley Hall in Fall 2021, they said they found themselves in a residence hall that was too hot and too small, and had only two wardrobe spaces for three people. Otake said he was initially unsure about what his rooming experience would be like.

“I was like, ‘This room is tiny, I don’t really know about these vibes. Maybe I want to switch into a bigger room with a little more space,'” Otake said.

Thom, reflecting on rooming in Pauley Hall, said his overall experience exceeded his initial impressions.

“There was actually definitely enough room, it wasn’t too cramped, it was cozy,” Thom said.

Oliver Otake (junior), Antonio Cabello-Sanchez (junior), and Collin Thom (sophomore) talk about their experiences living in Pauley Hall together at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 16, 2022. Alexia Lara/The Occidental

According to Monique Hankerson, associate director of Residential Education & Housing Services (REHS), there are currently 1,606 students living on campus. One way REHS pairs students is by comparing students’ responses to the questionnaire they fill out on eRezLife, the college’s housing application platform. Hankerson said that REHS reads through the questionnaires and matches those with similar responses.

“Though we utilize eRezLife, we don’t just push a button,” Hankerson said via email. “We look at some of the larger questions that potentially cause roommate conflict — guests, cleanliness, sleep, study and sharing.”

Through the questionnaire, students are assigned random roommates. To be paired with a friend or known acquaintance, students can instead create roommate groups where REHS tries to assign students to the group of their choice, according to Hankerson. However, this may not always be the case, as the pairing process is dependent on room type availability and room draw selection times.

For some, random assignment is a deliberate choice. Raymond Arias (first year), lives in a Pauley triple and he said he was inspired by an Occidental College YouTube video when making housing decisions.

“I had seen some videos where the interviewed students said the randomized system worked really well,” Arias said. “[One of the students] said he met his best friend in college there.”

Meanwhile, Lou Alpert (first year), who lives in Stewart-Cleland Hall, had a desired roommate already in mind when she applied. Alpert said she met her roommate through Instagram — she posted a photo of herself on an Occidental-related page, then her future roommate saw it and they chatted away.

“I thought it was going to be cringy, having my photo up there,” Alpert said. “But it worked out for the best. My roommate direct messaged me and was like, ‘Hey, do you want to be my roommate?’ She’s really cool, we’re very similar.”

According to Alpert, having a roommate as a first-year means having a buddy to do things with, especially when she is still new and less familiar with Occidental and its campus.

“It’s nice, having somebody there, where you can go like, ‘Are you hungry? When’s your class?’ It feels like getting into a group with somebody else,” Alpert said.

Beyond her room, Alpert said the residents of Stewart-Cleland Hall make a good, sociable community.

“I feel like there’s always something happening, there are always people in the common room doing movie nights,” Alpert said. “I think they watched ‘Pinkalicious‘ one night, that was funny.”

Otake, Cabello-Sanchez and Thom were assigned via questionnaire. While Otake and Cabello-Sanchez were vaguely acquainted from a previous online class, the two juniors said they did not know Thom at all.

“I knew Oliver mentioned [in class] that he liked Studio Ghibli movies, that was the only thing I knew about him,” Cabello-Sanchez said.

Despite the initial unfamiliarity, according to Cabello-Sanchez, the three went on to become comfortable sharing storage space and would even teach each other languages they learned in class. Otake, Cabello-Sanchez and Thom are no longer living together this semester, but their time in Pauley had a lasting impact on the trio, according to Thom.

“Pauley was really welcoming, everyone tried to find community and share their own experiences,” Thom said. “The people in Pauley are still the ones I talk to the most, and have the strongest connections to.”

Otake also said he knows that people’s experiences can vary.

“I know others who have not had quite as good experiences in the process,” Otake said. “[But] I think we have a success story here.”

*Otake works for The Occidental as a staff writer, photographer and videographer.