Séances, sleepovers and the many traditions keeping roommates together

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Gabi Saliamonas (senior), left, Abby Wilson (senior), middle and Anna Franceschelli (senior), right, hug each other during their freshman years at Occidental College. Photo courtesy of Anna Franceschelli

Walking into a college dorm room on first-year move-in day can be emotionally nerve-wracking and mentally exhausting. Awkward or over-enthusiastic greetings with a new roommate certainly add to the stress and worry. For many, college is the first time they have shared a room with anybody. Living with a stranger, then, is laden with the potential for challenges — but also the prospect of forging a deep and special friendship.

From the completely random to the thoughtfully planned, students become roommates under a variety of circumstances. For those who live together for multiple years, creating traditions can be an important part of their relationship. Some are simple and happen naturally; other traditions are complex and need to be planned in advance. These traditions are an additional source of intimacy between people who already live so closely.

Anna, Abby and Gabi

Anna Franceschelli (senior), Abby Wilson (senior) and Gabi Saliamonas* (senior) lived together after Residential Education and Housing Services placed them in a triple their first year. According to Franceschelli and Wilson, they all reached out to each other on Facebook after getting their roommate assignments and did not think they would get along based on their social media profiles and styles.

“The first day I walked in, I was like, ‘I don’t know about this,’” Franceschelli said.

Despite these first impressions, Franceschelli said they all became friends quickly after moving in. She said she thinks they started spending time together because, as first years, they did not know a lot of other people at first.

According to Franceschelli, all three roommates have different interests but compatible personalities. She said that she and Wilson bonded over being honest people.

“We’ll just kind of say whatever’s on our mind and how we feel, and that got us off to a pretty quick start, friendship-wise,” Franceschelli said.

Their sophomore year, Saliamonas was a Residential Advisor, so Wilson and Franceschelli lived in a double. Their junior year, they all lived separately because they studied abroad. As seniors, they are all living on the same floor of an off-campus house. Wilson said it has been nice to be together again.

“It’s so fun,” Wilson said. “I’ve lived with Anna for so long and she’s lived with me that we know each other so well. I’m like, ‘Okay, you’re going to do ten alarms in the morning, but you need to make them the nice ringing sound.’”

As roommates, they have also created many traditions. One consistent tradition has been learning dances together, according to Wilson.

“When we were freshmen, the music video for ‘Sorry’ by Justin Bieber came out,” Wilson said. “We were like, ‘We’re going to learn the dance.’ We also learned how to rap all of ‘Pills N Potions’ by Nicki Minaj.”

They also occasionally have sleepovers, where they sleep in the same bed, usually after watching a movie together.

“Then I always go to my own bed in the morning,” Wilson said.

Franceschelli said since they often spend their days apart, she and Wilson will sometimes go on a walk to catch up with each other.

“It always just grounds me in the feelings I already have for Abby,” Franceschelli said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, this person gets me and has been there for me.’”

According to Franceschelli, this familiarity and comfort has allowed their roommate relationship to remain strong and healthy, even when they occasionally fight.

“We can handle everything we go through really productively,” Franceschelli said. “All of our fights have consisted of us being like, ‘I love you, and you’re doing the thing that bothers me, and I’m going to keep loving you forever.’”

Wilson said their honest personalities have also contributed to their resilient relationship.

“We’re both really loving and caring for each other, but we don’t try to sugarcoat things. I’ve learned how to not sugarcoat things in a way that doesn’t hurt feelings,” Wilson said.

Logan and Spencer

Logan McIntyre (senior) and Spencer Nussbaum (senior) were not roommates their first year. According to McIntyre, they became roommates their sophomore year — almost accidentally — after they abandoned their separate plans to room with the same person. With two days left before room draw, Nussbaum said they agreed to be roommates.

“We didn’t talk much at the beginning,” Nussbaum said. “We’re both sort of computer people, so we’d just put on our headsets.”

McIntyre said he thinks he and Nussbaum became friends partly because they lived in a Norris Hall suite and did not know any of their suitemates well. McIntyre said he is a fan of mixed martial arts; he frequently played EA Sports’ Ultimate Fight Championship (UFC) video games and watched UFC fights in the room. He said he convinced Nussbaum to watch one of the fights with him by turning it into a drinking game. In the beginning, watching the fights was very impromptu, according to Nussbaum, because they usually started right after he got back from work. Since then, they said watching the fights together has become a tradition.

“Every time there’s a fight at a reasonable hour — not the seven in the morning fights — but almost every Saturday, we try to watch,” Nussbaum said.

McIntyre said they especially try to watch the more prominent fights together. They sometimes get takeout from Rockbird, a restaurant in Glendale, and invite other friends over to watch with them.

Nussbaum said he remembers when he first recognized one of the fighters and knew their name. He said that is when he realized he was starting to enjoy watching the fights. McIntyre said he thinks the tradition has played an important role in their roommate relationship.

“I definitely think it contributed, especially early on, in terms of just becoming friends and getting to know each other,” McIntyre said.

According to McIntyre and Nussbaum, they have not had a lot of challenges as roommates.

“We’re both very chill people. Both of us have a high threshold for there to be a problem,” Nussbaum said. “Also the random, nonsensical just out-of-left-field conversations where we keep making the wildest assumptions possible.”

Nussbaum said he had a different roommate over the summer and that it was weird not living with McIntyre.

“It’s the weird situation where just because you’re really good friends with somebody doesn’t mean you can always work together as roommates,” Nussbaum said. “Whereas I feel like we have that good ability where we work well as roommates and friends.”

They said the success of their roommate relationship proves that you do not need to room with someone you already know well or put a lot of thought into the decision.

“I think there’s something to be said about actually becoming friends through rooming,” McIntyre said.

Lara and Serena

According to Lara Minassians (junior), she and Serena Pelenghian* (junior) became roommates their first year after Pelenghian contacted her via Facebook.

“She direct messaged me and said, ‘Are you Armenian?’” Minassians said. “It was a good icebreaker.”

Minassians said she met Pelenghian in person for the first time at Urth Caffe to see if they would be compatible roommates. She said they found out they had a lot of common interests and agreeable personalities. They decided to room together their first year and have remained roommates ever since.

“We’ll refer to each other as soulmates,” Minassians said. “It was really meant to be.”

Over the years, Minassians said she and Pelenghian have developed a lot of traditions. The first tradition, according to Minassian, started because of her first-year Cultural Studies Program (CSP) class.

“I was taking a CSP on comic books, and I was reading Batman all the time in the room. We were always changing, and we had just met each other, so we decided to say ‘Batman’ every time we would change in the room,” Minassians said. “That is our longest-running tradition.”

During their first year as roommates, Minassians said they also started planning their outfits for the next day together and coordinating their morning alarms.

“Every night, or evening, I ask her what she’s going to wear,” Minassians said. “The weather app in hand, we’re always showing each other what we’re going to wear.”

Minassians said she and Pelenghian also frequently go to Señor Fish, a restaurant in Eagle Rock, together for dinner Saturday nights. She said she thinks these traditions have helped solidify their close and trusting relationship.

Minassians said this close relationship has extended to their families too. Starting their first year, she said she, Pelenghian and their families would go out to dinner together to celebrate the end of the academic year.

“Our families are really close,” Minassians said. “[Serena] calls my mom ‘Mom.’”

Minassians said she and Pelenghian want to live together even after college. They travelled abroad to Cophenhagen last summer, and Minassians said they are planning to travel to London together this winter.

“It’s like we’re never apart. If one of us travels, we always Facetime,” Minassians said. “We’re intense, but it’s so natural.”

Minassians and Pelenghian also work together as co-presidents of Occidental College’s Armenian Student Association.

“We absolutely love sharing our identify with the school and sharing our culture,” Minassians said. “I used to be a very reserved person, but when I found [Serena] she became my confidant — someone I can really trust and count on, which helped me grow as a person.”

Nora Healy (senior), left and Leah Healy (senior), right, pose at their seances in 2019. Photo courtesy of Nora Healy

Nora and Leah

Nora Healy (senior) and Leah Healy (senior) lived in different rooms next to each other their first year. Their roommates were friends, according to Nora, so they ended up living in the same Norris suite together their sophomore year. Nora said her roommate moved into an off-campus house and Leah’s roommate left partway through the year, so they became roommates the following summer.

“It was also kind of funny because, obviously, we have the same last name,” Nora said. “We were like, ‘This would be kind of a meme.’”

Leah said the transition from being friends to roommates was easy. Nora said despite the fact that they are involved in different activities, their roommate dynamic is very relaxed and natural.

“We’ll just hang out and sit in our room and watch ‘The Great British Bake Off,’” Nora said.

Their main tradition, which started their junior year, is hosting séances. Leah said they print out chants and make their friends dress up as witches or gremlins.

“Last year, people brought offerings,” Leah said. “They had to have a reason behind the offering that we put in this stupid cauldron we had in the center.”

Nora said this year, they bought a book that explains the actual meaning behind different rituals, which has made the séances a time for self-reflection.

“It’s a mix of fun reflection and spooky,” Nora said.

Usually, they said they play with a Ouija Board and try to prank the rest of their friends. Leah said last year they hid two Bluetooth speakers and played whispering and wind noises. This year, Nora said they had one of their friends, who graduated last year and who no one else expected to be there, scratch at the walls and bang on the door.

“We have a good time thinking about what’s going to happen and planning it,” Leah said.

Nora said the séances often turn into game nights.

“It’s mostly a friendship bonding thing,” Nora said. “We’re sociable people, but not super outgoing, so this is our way of bringing people into our home.”

Nora said communication has been an important part of their relationship.

“Being roommates with someone, it can be an extension of friendship, but — at the end of the day — it’s a different relationship,” Nora said. “You need to be more honest with that person than you would be with other friends.”

Junko Anderson (junior), left, Kitty Lu (junior), middle and Leslie Torres (junior), right, pictured in Johnson Hall at Occidental College. Photo courtesy of Kitty Lu

Kitty, Junko and Leslie

Kitty Lu (junior) and Leslie Torres (junior) met at the Multicultural Summer Institute and were able to select each other as roommates. They were placed in a Pauley triple with Junko Anderson (junior).

“[Junko] was just a great roommate,” Lu said. “We could have ended up with anyone, it just worked out to be the better.”

Their sophomore year, they were placed in the same room in Pauley. This semester, Torres is studying abroad, so Lu said she and Anderson are living together.

Lu said her first semester, she was really focused on classes and was barely in the room, so Torres and Anderson became close. Their second semester, Lu said, all three roommates’ class schedules overlapped, and they started getting breakfast together every day, which they continue to do.

“We’re all so busy, that just became the time we’re going to hang out,” Lu said. “It also keeps us on track with eating.”

Toward the end of the semester, Lu said they also have a tradition of all getting ramen together to motivate and reward themselves. She said Torres had gone to Tatsu Ramen with her friends and raved about how good it was, so they decided to go for a roommate dinner.

Lu said it is easier to maintain their breakfast tradition than getting ramen because they naturally wake up at about the same time.

“We come from different backgrounds, and we really try to understand each others’ backgrounds and have an interest in each other,” Lu said. “Leslie and I are pretty close to home, but Junko’s kind of far away, so understanding how to create a home away from that.”

Lu said creating a supportive atmosphere in the room is important because college is stressful enough without roommate drama.

“I feel like I’m very lucky to have two roommates who I can really trust,” Lu said. “Giving each other that reassurance and having someone in your corner — essentially, your room being your own safe space.”

According to Lu, the traditions she has created with her roommates help maintain that feeling.

“It’s important to have roommate traditions. It doesn’t have to be big things — for us, it’s very simple to keep getting breakfast,” Lu said. “Having planned activities is very important, just to have things to look forward to.”

*Pelenghian and Saliamonas are staff writers for The Occidental