When Associate Professor of English Paul Miller assigned his Writing for Publication students to produce an article with the student column of the college’s quarterly magazine in mind, Michaela Corr ’07 picked a topic she knew well—one that helped define the foundations of how she approached her Davidson experience. Here is the essay she wrote, published in the Summer 2006 issue of the Davidson Journal.
According to Davidson’s Web site, 40 percent of the freshman class remains with their roommate for sophomore year. Apparently, nearly half of the student population is satisfied with the current system. However, this statistic fails to answer a deeper question: can a first-year roommate influence what we learn at Davidson?
I’ll be the first to admit that my initial experience with Hannah produced some anxiety. As our hall prepared for the infamous Freshman Olympics, Hannah approached me, looking somewhat puzzled. “Um, yeah, you wouldn’t happen to have any sporty clothes I could borrow for this Olympics thing, would you? I don’t exactly have any….” My eyes widened: do I have sports clothes? Is the sky blue? With three athletic brothers and a father who instigates boxing matches in the kitchen, I was astounded that someone could go anywhere without an old T-shirt and some running shoes. Who was this girl?
Clearly there had been a mix-up. There I was: the tall, freckle-faced Irish girl who owned more soccer shorts than skirts, staring dumbfounded at Hannah, the small-framed Korean girl who owned more purses than I had soccer shorts. How could we have possibly been matched? Had the Residence Life Office’s infamous Myers-Briggs test somehow gone awry in analyzing our responses to “Do you prefer square or circular figures? Rough or smooth surfaces?” How could Davidson have been so wrong about us?
So, we had our doubts about one another from the start, and even considered switching roommates; thankfully, our hall counselor convinced us otherwise.
After the initial divide, we began to lower our defenses and recognize our eccentric duality as comical. I would awkwardly pronounce the few Korean words I could decipher from her phone conversations (I only got as far as “I love you boyfriend”) or engage in the “Asian conventions” that took place in our room (three Asians in the same room at Davidson constitutes a convention). For her part, Hannah would piously pledge her allegiance to my beloved Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots, which I appreciated until she casually inquired about the Red Sox quarterback. While we studied, Hannah laughed at my nutty impressions of our chemistry teacher, and I would laugh at her goofy attempts to imitate these impersonations. In fact, Hannah and I became so attuned to one another that we would finish the other’s sentences—unless, of course, they were in Korean.
Despite our extreme differences, we somehow connected. All those disparities in ethnicity, upbringing, clothing style, and even aspirations for the future seemed trivial, compared to what we had in common: Davidson. As the year progressed, we recognized our shared ambition of using Davidson as a springboard into the real world, for experiences beyond academia. While we selected the school for opposite reasons (Hannah to pursue a medical career, me to pursue anything but medicine), it has something to offer us both; and, in turn, we have something to offer one another. And although our academic pursuits and social circles pulled us in different directions after freshman year, we still feel a strong connection and camaraderie whenever our paths cross.
“Hannah Banana! How are things going in our beloved chemistry lab?”
“Oh, better than ever, MiCorr, you should stop by and help me mix chemicals sometime!”
Looking back, I realize that if we had switched roommates, our freshman experiences—and those that have followed—would have been less meaningful.
What did Davidson teach us by putting us together? Beyond the recognition that soccer shorts aren’t just for athletes or the satisfaction in knowing you have a purse for every occasion, that first year taught us the deeper truth of the old saw about opposites. Not only do they attract, they learn from each other. While Hannah and I may not be included in the 40 percent who remain with a first-year roommate, we are among the much larger percentage of Davidson students who learn the great value of diversity, and to embrace it as part of our college experience.