Meeting new friends, getting involved in school initiatives, and making life-long memories are made easier with a roommate. Having a roommate helps build an early support system for students transitioning into university life. For Alex Wind, a first-year student in Urban Planning, and Barak Kline, a first-year student majoring in Economics and Peace and Conflict Studies, having a roommate at Conrad Grebel University College has been a highlight experience. 

While they would later become good friends, Alex and Barak originated from vastly different backgrounds. "My dad and older brother went to Grebel,” said Alex, who lived in the Netherlands before moving to Canada. “They both had really good experiences here and made a ton of friends, so I became interested in going myself.”  

On the other hand, Barak was in a gap-year program where one of the staff suggested Grebel as a potential residence opportunity. “I went on a tour and really enjoyed it, so I was already looking forward to becoming part of the Grebel experience I heard so much about,” shared Barak.  

Neither Alex nor Barak knew anything about each other before Grebel, but that didn’t stop them from soon becoming good friends.  “Our parents talked with each other, which kind of eased tensions,” said Alex. Barak commented that we sometimes felt overwhelmed meeting so many other students during orientation week and was grateful to have Alex and his dorm as a home base to return to, sparking a solid friendship between the pair.  

Grebel’s open door tradition was a natural way for the two roommates to become closer with the rest of the students on their floor. “The majority of our close friends were our floormates,” said Alex. “If they had their doors open, we would come in and talk with them. Each person had snacks that were offered to everybody, so you could pop in and grab a snack while getting to know the people around you.” Alex and Barak had no trouble finding fun activities to do with their floormates; the two pointed to playing Rocket League with floormates as a common leisure time stress-reducer. 

Establishing personal space using proper communication and respect was key to maintaining a positive roommate relationship between the two roommates. Through understanding each other's schedule and living tendencies, the two developed a routine that suited both their lifestyles. “We learned to make our room a chill space and be open when communicating our needs and personal space,” said Alex. Knowing each other's schedules – when the other goes to class, where they like to study, when they need personal space – built a trust–filled understanding that ensured both felt comfortable in their new living environments.  

Alex and Barak soon became active participants in the fun residence stories they had heard about from their peers. “The Community Suppers are great,” said Alex. “You come into the dining room and feel comfortable sitting at any table. You talk with each other, then eat and listen to a guest speaker together." Alex also mentioned Grebel’s other community building initiatives, which included painting and dancing events.  

Barak appreciated the opportunity to connect with older peers and staff members in a relaxed environment. “You might find yourself at a table with faculty and staff who you’d never get the chance to talk with otherwise. You really get to know the community you’re in.”  

Alex Wind and Barak Kline

Significant thought and care go into the Grebel roommate selection process. Before September move-in, each incoming Grebel resident is asked to complete a survey detailing their sleeping, study, and cleanliness habits and preferences. The Student Services team also meets with each student during the residence admission interviews, which further helps them match compatible students. “There are no computer programs or algorithms involved,” said Gemma Ricker, Student Life and Recruitment Coordinator. “Each pair is hand-selected to the best of our team’s ability.”  

Whether coming from abroad to study in Canada or returning to studies after a gap-year like Barak, applying to live at Grebel is an easy way for students to get established in a supportive community. “Yes, you are sharing a room, but it isn’t as demanding as one may think,” said Barak.  

For Alex, who came into a new situation with no pre-established friends, Grebel provided comfort. “I made so many friends so quickly who accepted me as one of their own, which really helped me get situated in a new environment."

Learn more about Grebel’s residence.  

By Jiho Mercer