By Kimberly Ng
As the new semester begins, many students embark on the next stage of their university life — going for exchange programmes or internships. As most of them no longer reside in halls, their roommates are left fretting over the possibility of now staying with a randomly allocated stranger.
After spending one semester adjusting to each other’s living habits, some might have difficulties adapting to a totally new person, especially if their new roommate turns out to be a far cry from the previous one.
The Nanyang Chronicle visits three pairs of random roommates turned best friends to find out how living with a stranger can also be a rewarding experience.
Like most students who are randomly allocated a roommate, Jocelyn Ng, 20, was skeptical about meeting her new Hall of Residence 11 roommate last semester.
The first-year School of Social Sciences student, who enjoys clean and tidy spaces, was worried that her roommate would have living habits that clashed with her own.
However, Ng learnt that her roommate, first-year School of Humanities student Cleo Tan, 22, was just as hygienic and organised as she was through their rants about the state of the toilets in Hall 11. Tan’s habit of keeping her side of the room clutter-free only added to their friendship.
The two girls are very particular about cleanliness and do not touch their beds until they have showered.
While the washing of curtains in hall is not a norm for many, for Tan and Ng, it is a must-do before the start of every semester.
“The room gets very dusty and the curtains were actually very dirty when we first moved in, so we made it a habit to wash our curtains at the start of each semester, before school starts to get busy for us,” Ng said.
This often attracts stares from their neighbours when they hang their curtains out to dry, even though Ng feels that washing their curtains is a perfectly normal thing to do.
“I don’t understand why no one else does it. They are so dusty,” Ng said.
Another quality that they share is an eye for innovation.
Their room is air-conditioned, but Tan dislikes how cold it can get, so she taped a few pieces of cardboard to the bottom of the air-conditioner. This directed most of the cold wind to Ng’s side of the room.
Ng then took it up a notch by using the cardboard base of the air-conditioner as a makeshift refrigerator – placing their yogurt and eggs there to keep them chilled – prior to getting a proper refrigerator this semester.
Though it has only been one semester, Tan and Ng have already agreed to remain roommates until they leave for exchange, and wish to continue rooming together even after they return.
“Even though Jocelyn likes to watch dramas at two times the original speed, we are actually very similar in terms of our personalities and living habits, and I’m very thankful that I got her as a roommate,” Tan said.
Dinner for two
Final-year School of Humanities student Ng Jun Xiong, 23, is an early sleeper, which is unusual among hall residents.
Fortunately, he has been able to sleep peacefully every night in Pioneer Hall with his allocated roommate of two years, who was always quiet and never slammed the door while Ng was asleep.
Apart from being a considerate roommate, Lin Yu Cheng, 30, who graduated last semester, and was Ng’s course mate, shared some of his hobbies.
“We both like to build plastic models and our favourite comic character is Batman,” Ng said, adding that they attend annual Gundam model exhibitions at Orchard Road and watch new superhero movies together.
“Our friendship was really built on our shared love for Gundam model building,” Lin said.
They often exchanged tips on how to build certain models, and shared their reviews of new models.
The roommates also used to cook dinner in hall every night, a routine they started to improve their cooking skills and have healthier meals.
A typical meal used to include rice, one vegetable dish and one meat dish. They would also occasionally try out new recipes and invite course mates over to cook and eat with them.
“He (Lin) left his cooking pot behind for me to use until I graduate, and I still cook dinner for myself every night,” Ng said.
Despite their common interests, Ng says that he and Lin have very different personalities.
Where Lin was more outgoing and would usually start their conversations, Ng tended to hide his emotions and could go the entire day without talking.
But with Lin, he is comfortable chatting about anything, ranging from school work to their families to their relationships. They would sometimes have “heart-to-heart” talks before falling asleep.
They remain updated on each other’s lives through text and social media, even though they no longer meet daily. The two friends also have plans to travel overseas in the future.
“We actually promised to travel to Japan or Taiwan together. It’s a part of our bucket list,” Ng said.
Tan Wenqi, 20, applied for a double occupancy room in Hall 15 last semester due to its lower cost compared to renting a single room.
But unlike most people, Tan chose to get matched to a random roommate instead of rooming with her friends.
“I knew people coming to NTU, but I didn’t want to room with anyone I know, because I was afraid I would end up hating my friends and their living habits if I roomed with them,” said the first-year Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information student.
Tan’s current roommate is first-year School of Chemistry and Biological Chemistry student Ong Jing Yi, 21, whose living habits are identical to that of Tan’s.
“We are both not morning people, so it’s always interesting trying to get up in the morning, because we tend to oversleep and have to rush for class,” Ong said.
The similarly extroverted girls hit it off from the start and now talk as if they have known each other for years — reading each other’s minds and finishing each other’s sentences — despite having been roommates for only one semester.
One memorable shared experience is the time they spent almost an hour trying to chase a large spider out of their room.
“We are both scared of spiders, but no one was around to help us, so we had to kill it ourselves,” Tan said. They also took a video of their attempts which they still watch every now and then for a good laugh.
Though the girls are busy with their own commitments in hall, their friendship continues to grow through living together.
“Jing Yi plays sports while I’m in dance, but spending every night together since our freshman orientation camp and talking about our day before we go to sleep is what really bonded us,” Tan said.