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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 15, 2024

Roommate pairs demonstrate their Jumbo compatibility for all four years at Tufts

Tufts seniors discuss their experiences living with their first-year roommate for their entire undergraduate career.

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Roommate pairs Cate Fagen and Claire Slack are pictured, left, and Jose Atienza and Jack Stube are pictured, right.

First-year roommates can be a bit of a hit or miss. Just because two people have similar sleep schedules does not mean they will be compatible, which is something that the housing survey from the Office of Residential Life & Learning unfortunately cannot predict.

Despite positive experiences with first-year roommates, many students still opt to branch out and live with different respective friends for their sophomore year.

Yet, a select few first-year roommates choose to room together again, and an even more selective bunch continue living together as upperclassmen. While it may seem implausible to some, the housing algorithm can create a pairing so successful that it lasts for all four years at Tufts.

Biology major Jack Stube and economics major Jose Atienza are two of these lucky individuals. Both Stube and Atienza  alongside the rest of their then-incoming class  filled out the housing form over the summer before freshman year. The two were matched together and placed in Miller room 007, or as Stube affectionately described it, room “double-oh-seven,” a reference to the James Bond franchise.

“[The] first day went swimmingly. We played FIFA. We had a great time,” Stube said.

But things did not stay smooth for long.

“I would say the first month, though, was not good. I would argue it was terrible,” Stube said. “The thing is, I think we both [had] never lived with somebody [else], and we were having trouble adjusting to each other’s habits. And I thought he was goofy as hell and kind of a weird kid.”

Atienza had a poignant response to this assessment.

“I thought he was an idiot,” Atienza said.

Stube and Atienza were eventually able to overcome this adjustment period due to a very special circumstance: the COVID-19 pandemic. Students in the Class of 2024  including Stube and Atienza  had the unique experience of starting college in the midst of the pandemic, which unsurprisingly was accompanied by a plethora of obstacles. For instance, students who left for Thanksgiving in 2020 were not permitted to return to campus until the beginning of the spring 2021 term for isolation purposes.

While challenging, this adjustment actually served to bring the two roommates closer. Their floor in Miller Hall organized a going-away party for Atienza before his flight home, and this party proved to be a turning point in their friendship.

“My flight was at 5 a.m., so the whole floor stayed up together as a little send-off,” Atienza said. “I think that was the first time [Jack and I] properly bonded.”

The COVID-19 pandemic also inspired weekly road trips in which the two would wake up early to drive up to various mountains across New England to ski.

“Jack brought a car [in the] second semester,” Atienza said. “We would go skiing like every weekend because there [was] nothing to do during COVID.”

According to Stube, those adventures consisting of early wake-ups and long drives proved to be an important bonding experience for the two.

“What really kind of forged the friendship and made it huge was skiing,” Stube said.

Another shared interest between the two was their love of FIFA, the EA Sports soccer video game. Their passionate gaming sessions solidified their reputation as the “floor goons” in both Miller Hall as first-years and Harleston Hall as sophomores.

Interestingly, it also led to a high-stakes bet between the two last summer.

“About halfway through the summer, Jose, his mom and his sister came to visit,” Stube said. “Jose at dinner was talking to his mom about how I’m a bad FIFA player. … The thing is, historically, that’s not true. … I, in the confidence that I had at that moment, challenged him to bet.”

Unfortunately for Atienza, Stube was able to prevail and prove his FIFA worth, resulting in an unfortunate change in appearance.

“I lost the bet, so I had to bleach my hair,” Atienza said. “It was box bleach from CVS. It was disgusting.”

After their first two years at Tufts, the two moved off campus together to an apartment on Boston Avenue and have lived together since. While the two will be going their separate ways after graduation, Stube and Atienza expressed their full confidence in their ability to remain close friends.

“I see [Jose] more as a brother than I see [him] as a friend I have to invest in. I’m tied with [him] now,” Stube said.

While it is rare for roommates to stick together for all four years, Atienza and Stube are actually not alone in this experience.

Political science major Claire Slack and astrophysics major Cate Fagen have also been living together ever since their Hill Hall days back in 2020. After getting matched through Residential Life, the two quickly hit it off.

“I [had] been talking to [Claire] only over text,” Fagen said. “We [had] been texting a lot, actually, like we asked each other tons and tons of questions.”

Upon move-in, they found their decoration styles to be perfectly coordinated, setting a positive tone for the friendship. Like Stube and Atienza, the two also credit COVID-19 for allowing them to grow so close since contact with other students was limited.

“We spent so much time together,” Slack said. “It was the time when you were only allowed … to sit with one other person at the dining hall. So of course we would sit together every single night. … We would sit in Carm and eat meals together, and I think we got along really well.”

When it came time to think about sophomore-year housing, the fact that the two would continue living together was never even a question.

“I don’t even think there was a formal asking; I think we just both assumed,” Fagen said.

COVID-19 restrictions began to lift in their second year at Tufts, allowing students more freedom to hang out with their friends outside of their dorms; however, Slack and Fagen still made sure to dedicate time to each other.

For instance, the two started a tradition of brushing their teeth together each night as well as weekend morning Dunkin’ runs, a novel concept for California native Fagen.

“We had a little morning ritual on Saturday mornings,” Fagen said. “After a night of tomfoolery on Friday, we would wake up and we’d walk to Dunkin’. … I learned a lot about the New England way of life that way.”

Speaking of New England traditions, the two also reminisced about Fagen learning how to ride the T. On one occasion, an unfortunate miscalculation on Fagen’s part left her stranded far away from Tufts.

“I’ve tried to bestow a lot of T knowledge on Cate, and my biggest failure was when Cate went to take the T to get her COVID vaccine,” Slack said. “She takes the T and I’m so proud of her. I’m like, ‘You're killing it!’ And then I’m back on Tufts campus and I get a call from Cate and she’s like, in the middle of nowhere, like she’s in Newton or something.”

Fagen provided a very reasonable explanation for the mishap:

“I didn’t realize that inbound and outbound switch,” Fagen said.

For their junior and senior years, the two moved into an off-campus apartment, yet still managed to secure side-by-side rooms. While some people prefer living solo, Slack and Fagen look back fondly on their time in doubles and emphasize the benefit of having a roommate.

“You become so symbiotic with [each other],” Slack said. “You get in such a routine of knowing what the other person wants to do and being like ‘Okay, we need to lock in and do homework for an hour,’ or like, ‘We’re gonna both be losing our minds in finals season and we need to go to Dunkin’’ or something like that. I think that’s why living in a double was really beneficial to our experience.”

Fagen also emphasized the simple beauty of just coexisting and being able to share a space with another person.

“I think some of my favorite times in the dorm were when we both would just be there,” Fagen said. “It was like living alone, but in my opinion, better, because there’s somebody who’s there and you’re silent, but it’s very comfortable silence.”

While their era of joint toothbrushing and Saturday morning Dunkin’ runs has come to a close, the two undoubtedly anticipate staying close. Slack is already planning to visit Fagen’s home in California for the first time. Needless to say, while Tufts marked the beginning of their friendship, graduation certainly does not mark the end.

The concept of a random roommate may seem daunting for incoming students, but one minute with the two roommate pairs will immediately prove to you that the survey can be successful.