Claremont first-years recreate roommate experience during remote semester

Female student with backpack and headphones walks through pink hallway
Graphic by Chloe Frelinghuysen

When Natalie Ionescu CM 24 decided to rent a house with one other first-year for the remote fall semester, she wasn’t sure what to expect from her search to find two additional roommates. But after placing a post on the Instagram page @5c_roomiess advertising the communal housing opportunity, she was shocked.

“We got an overwhelming amount of DMs; I think I got, like, 12 girls who were interested,” Ionescu said. “I did not expect that at all.”

When the Claremont Colleges moved online for the semester, the first-year roommate experience was completely upended. Still determined to experience living with other students, some first-years made the decision to move in together during the remote semester. But without school facilitation, housing decisions were pushed into the hands of first-year students to self-sort into living arrangements for the semester.

“If we don’t get along as people, that’s the most important thing that someone is looking for in a roommate,” Ionescu said.

After conducting Zoom interviews, Ionescu was able to connect with two other first-years. Together, they moved into a house in Monterey, California. 

“It’s the most ideal situation, and I’m so glad I found them,” Ionescu said.

As students worked to find groups to live with in the fall, social media played a key role. Olivia Marble PO 24 made the decision to move in with four other Pomona College first-years after they connected online. 

“We would have these unofficial Zooms where someone who was also a first-year would start the Zoom, and we would all just be on at the same time,” Marble said. “I would say that we were friends … so it wasn’t hard to move in with them. You think it would be weird, but it felt like we had already met when we first got here.” 

This feeling of preestablished connection and the hope of further connection helped convince Marble that the drastic move from Alabama to California was worth it.

“I think that it is a very good experience to move out and come out here,” Marble said. “Even though there aren’t a lot of Pomona people, there are a lot of 5C people here to meet, so I think it’s a good experience to come out here and experience California and Claremont and meet new people.”

Beyond being able to meet people, living away from home has also given students the opportunity to be responsible for themselves.

“Going from living with your parents to completely living on your own and skipping the whole college dorm and roommate situation is a huge step, and I would have done it any day,” Ionescu said. “It’s really unfortunate that we can’t be on campus, but I’ve learned so much by being on my own, cleaning on my own and cooking — being an adult is what it comes down to.” 

Academically, students living together have found that being around other college students also eases the burden of schoolwork. 

“I think it’s made it more fun, more bearable,” Marble said.

However, not all students were able to move for the semester. Whether financial, familial or other personal reasons prevented a move, some students have found that being at home is difficult knowing that other students are currently able to be together. 

“Right now, college just seems to be doing homework, going to class,” Keneth Gonzalez-Hernandez PO ’24, who is currently living at home in Denver, Colorado, said. “Personally, I don’t think I’m going to get on campus with the feeling that I know people. Transitioning to college, especially being at home, is really tough.” 

As first-years begin to anticipate the hopeful possibility of arriving in Claremont for the spring semester, thoughts about how the social scene may change as a result of housing differences in the remote semester abound. 

While some students may worry that exclusivity may become more prevalent, students living together are certain that the social scene will not be as rigid as some may fear. 

“I don’t think we are going to be as tight-knit or exclusive as people may think,” Marble said. 

Perhaps the disparity created by different housing situations this semester may resolve itself with time. However, the effects of communal living during the remote semester will bring new differences to a process that was formerly equal for all. 

“I think that there will be some kids who will have more friends, because they have been able to already meet people,” Gonzalez-Hernandez said. “I feel like in their case, they already know their roommates and the people they are living with, so everyone will start in different positions.”

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