Life at Iowa: When roommates don’t work out

A DI arts reporter reflects on her roommate situation in the past semester.



Tatiana Plowman, Arts Reporter

As an out-of-state freshman, the choice to come to the University of Iowa for the 2020 fall semester was a difficult decision. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure if it was worth the money to move onto campus with the uncertainty of in-person classes. But I knew I couldn’t wait to start my college experience and take advantage of everything Iowa had to offer. 

Seven months before my Aug. 16 move-in date, I found a roommate through the UI Class of 2024 Facebook page. We instantly connected over shared high school activities, such as choir and a mutual love of Lana Del Rey. As an out-of-state college student, jumping into an unknown environment with no pre-made friends stressed me out, so knowing my roommate before moving in made me feel more comfortable about living five hours from home.

We moved in about a week before the start of the semester for a 3-day honors student workshop, a one credit hour course exploring a new topic of study. We spent our entire move-in day rearranging furniture and decorating our room in our Hillcrest Residence Hall. With photos of our closest family and friends and memorabilia adorning the space, the small space quickly felt like home.

Throughout the semester, I began to notice our differing lifestyles and sleep schedules. Instead of being the best-friend roommates I thought we would be, we morphed into acquaintances that occupied the same space. We communicated with each other, letting one another know when we needed the space for either Zoom calls or small-group gatherings. I never had an inkling of what was to come.  

Six days before I headed home for Thanksgiving Break, my roommate told me at midnight that she’d be moving out the following morning. The news shocked me. Not once had she ever mentioned something awry. As she started packing up all of her things, I laid in my bed unable to sleep. Was it my fault that she was moving out? Although she told me that I wasn’t directly responsible, I couldn’t help but feel like it was. I only slept two hours that night.

RELATED: Pandemic leads to increase in canceled residence halls

Roommates don’t always work out. I know multiple people with similar experiences to mine. However, seeing our friendship crumble as fast as it did was an unexpected and stressful change. There are positives and negatives to every milestone in life. I decided to focus on moving forward.

Some of my now former roommates’ friends stopped by early to start moving her stuff into her new room, which happened to be on the same floor as the room we shared.  I helped her carry the multiple boxes of clothing, jewelry, and miscellaneous items to her new room. Just as quickly as we had moved into our room, she was swiftly moved out. 

Once she cleared all her stuff from the room, the space felt unrecognizable. The walls were bare, like a vacant canvas waiting to be brought back to life. The formerly overstuffed closet suddenly didn’t feel suffocating to walk into. I realized there were so many items we shared, and I found myself suddenly compiling a list of items I’d have to purchase. My Christmas list ended up forming itself. 

University Housing and Dining offers students three options when it comes to handling room vacancies mid-contract. Students either room with someone they already know who is looking to move, buy out the room as a single occupancy, or place themselves on the room change waitlist. I was given 48 hours to solidify a decision.

The residence halls, except for Catlett, Petersen, and Mayflower, charge $3,599.50 for a double room with air. A single room with air is $4,633.50. The sudden price jump I’d have to make was something I couldn’t afford for this semester, especially during a pandemic. While I would love the extra space in the room for my belongings, it was not worth an extra thousand dollars. 

Most students I  had met on campus already had housing arrangements for the spring semester, and with 1,124 fewer students living on campus during the fall 2020 semester because of the pandemic forcing most classes online, I already had a narrower pool of people to possibly room with. I searched my class Facebook group, but had no luck finding a roommate within the time restrictions. I decided to place myself on the room change waitlist. 

UI Housing and Dining said they would contact me if someone willing to fill the space in my dorm room appeared. For now, I wait in anticipation to see if I will indeed get another roommate. Although having the space to myself is nice, I also wouldn’t mind having a roommate to share the cost and to make a new friend. Who knows, maybe it will end up being a lifelong friend and connection.