The evolution of freshman year roommates

Feb. 23, 2017, 5:53 a.m.

One of the most daunting aspects of freshman year at Stanford is not knowing who your roommates will be. However, this process can yield lasting friendships, as in the case of Sarah Bell ‘18, Melissa Du ‘18, Annabel Ostrow ‘18, and Leila Taleghani ‘18 – four juniors who were put together in a quad (two one-room doubles connected to a common room) in Roble Hall their freshman year and are all living in Roble again this year. I sat down with them to discover the secrets to a healthy roommate relationship and what they’ve learned along the way.

Cecilia Atkins (CA): Do you remember move-in day? What were your first impressions of each other?

Melissa Du (MD): This was … when Leila and I were still really normal and we were both like, “Oh my God you want to do engineering? Oh same.” “You play piano? I played violin.”

Annabel Ostrow (AO): I met Sarah early in the morning because we had both done SPOT. She came in wearing hiking clothes, and I was pretty sure that we were going to be friends.

Sarah Bell (SB): I thought Annabel’s brother was really hot. I later realized he was her brother. And I was intimidated by Leila, this cool girl from LA.

Leila Taleghani (LT): I was intimidated by you, too.

MD: [laughs] Intimidating is the farthest from what you guys actually are.


CA: How did these impressions and your friendships evolve over the course of your first year living together?

LT: We weren’t all friends the first week.

MD: Leila and I went to FACES and bumped into Annabel and Sarah who had gone separately, without us, and then we didn’t even sit together.

AO: There were turning points in all of our relationships. When we went to San Francisco for Scav[enger] Hunt, Leila and I bonded over feminism. Sarah and I got into the habit of getting into bed and talking for a while. By the end of the first week, we had had a pretty serious conversation about religion and our families –

MD: [interjects] I remember Leila and I would always be up late in our common room and we would hear Sarah and Annabel having intimate conversations in their [bedroom]. We tried to have one too, but we couldn’t, because it was just like, “Do you believe in God?” “No. Do you?” “No.” “Okay, cool.”

SB: Annabel and I held hands during Band Run. I was so scared because she was in better shape than I was and I had practice starting the next week.

AO: That’s definitely not true. I remember thinking: “Oh my God, this girl who just grabbed by hand is a D1 athlete, I better run my ass off.”


CA: How did you feel your quad dynamic compared to other quads that you knew of?

AO: From day one there was a lot of intentionality. We were all sitting outside Treehouse one night during NSO and on the back of a receipt we wrote basic tenets for living with one another that essentially boiled down to respect and making an effort to be kind. We all wanted to get along and were lucky in the fact that we got along.

LT: The roommate pairings were really right for us.

CA: If you could go back and give advice to your freshman selves, what would you say?

MD: Don’t date him … [laughs] Maybe I’d say that your roommates will be the best part of your Stanford career, so you should spend more time with them.

AO: I get antsy on Stanford’s campus and leave a lot, due to the fact that I love San Francisco and the Bay Area so much, so [I would have told myself to] say yes to more things on campus …

LT: I would say to join things that are completely new. I’ve heard a lot about people who tried something random and new and it became something really important to them.

SB: I don’t really believe in giving advice. I wouldn’t change anything. But I think all of us had a deep appreciation for the little moments, like driving to Half Moon Bay at midnight … The thing that was amazing about the four of us freshman year was that [we] came to the realization that this was a pretty permanent set of friendships that none of us had planned on and that don’t happen very often.


CA: How did you notice each other change over the course of freshman year?

LT: Melissa hung out with us more.

All: [laugh]

MD: [smiles] It’s true. Leila and I also became a lot weirder as time went on.

AO: Sarah and I got better at working through each other’s logic, figuring out how the other person thought and applying that to everything from our own relationship to the way the world works … We all learned to listen to each other.


CA: Why did you decide to all live in Roble again this year, your junior year? Note: Annabel and Leila are both RAs, Melissa is an RCC and Sarah has an upperclassman single.

AO: I was so sad when I found out I was in Roble … freshman year. I went into it thinking it wasn’t going to be the Stanford [experience] I wanted. Then I wound up with these roommates who ended up being one of the best parts of my life at Stanford … I wanted to staff Roble because my experience here had been so wonderful and because I wanted to ease the fears of freshmen who worried that this somehow wasn’t the Stanford they’d hoped for.

LT: Annabel starting talking about staffing first, and I remembered how great of a community Roble had been for me freshman year. I realized I could come back and not just live here, but also create the community here, which was so important.

MD: I just wanted to change printer paper.

All: [laugh]

SB: To have these three in the dorm with me is like breathing a sigh of relief when I walk into their rooms. There’s a lot of pressure in college to make sense all the time, to be a comprehensive, aligned person … to have a reason for emotions or whatever, but with these guys I don’t feel that way. It’s a level of being yourself where … you’re allowed to feel and be everything.

AO: [Last night], Melissa and I were talking about Stanford’s tendency to be a lonely place … We’re all so busy that outside of specific circumstances, [some] friendships can just go away. We came to the conclusion that if you’re lucky enough to have core friendships here, that you couldn’t fuck up, [and] then the time you [spend] at this place being lonely is minimized and you enjoy everything else more, too. Six weeks from now, if for some reason we haven’t been talking, there isn’t that Stanford tendency to just let things disappear. And it’s because we were lucky to have made these no-stakes friendships very early. Part of that is that you’re put into a sort of sibling situation rather than a friend situation, like, “Alright, live together, deal with it.”

LT: But also, that takes time. Yes, freshman year I felt close to these guys, but that feeling of [exhales] relief and coming home was kind of an initial version. Now, it doesn’t matter where we are – we have it.


CA: Any stories or traditions I should know about?

AO: A tradition started freshman year where when one of us messed up, whoever it was would get CoHo croissants and put them on everyone’s desks before they woke up, and it came to be known as “Sorry-I-Fucked-Up-CoHo.”


CA: Where do you see each other five years from now?

MD: I actually sat down the other day and drew a timeline and thought about where I see myself in two years and what qualities I want to have, but I had no answers to any of it.

Sarah: I see us in Roble. Still here.


Contact Cecilia Atkins at catkins ‘at’

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