When freshmen Maggie Cheng and Shuchita Poddar got their letters from Knox in late June telling them who their roommates would be, they never expected that they would find such a strong friendship with someone all the way across the world.
Cheng, who is from Minneapolis, and Shuchita, who grew up in India, first connected over social media when they found out they would be roommates. They instantly found that they have similar interests, with just a few cultural differences. Cheng loves musicals, her favorite being “Ragtime,” and Shuchita loves Bollywood films. Now that they’re at Knox together, they have plenty of time to introduce each other to their respective favorite movies.
“We have a lot in common, so we really clicked,” Cheng said. She and Poddar, who live in the Neal suite together, wound up going to most O-Week events together. “I think having a roommate, that’s a person who you right away can go to things with. So we would go to meals together and different events,” Cheng said.
“It’s good to have a friend you can always go to,” Poddar said.
They like to play air hockey together in the Taylor Lounge and sit in the room and talk or study together. They also complement each other very well.
“I’m very introverted so I usually just go back to the room and chill. She sometimes has to drag me out to the lounge,” Cheng said, laughing.
“I want to be around people all the time!” Poddar said, smiling at her roommate.
For senior Hannah Lee, the beginning of her freshman year was not easy. Lee, who has always dealt with social anxiety, had a hard time making friends. She stayed in her room for the first six weeks of the term and would go home every weekend. It wasn’t until she met seniors Jacob Elliot and Aliya Estes that she felt comfortable in her new home on campus.
“We would literally just hang out in the Elder 3 common room every day. Mario Kart every other day! None of us were really in too many clubs back then so we would spend all our time together,” Estes said.
The three have been inseparable ever since. New friends have been added to their group as the years have gone by, but that doesn’t take away from their friendship, it only adds more fun.
“If one person brings someone else into the group, we trust that they’re a good person,” Elliot said.
It’s been a long time since they met freshman year but they only love each other more as time goes on. “I feel like these are the people I’ve been meant to meet my whole life, I don’t know how to describe that but literally Hannah and Jacob and our friends, they’re my go-to people, I can tell them anything. I never felt that way about anyone else when I was in high school. We’ve been through a lot emotionally,” said Estes. “We’ve all gone through things individually but we’re always there for each other through every single trial which is crazy.”
All three have wise advice for anyone looking to make new friends.
“I was hoping I would have a really great relationship with my roommate when I got to college but I immediately had to reach elsewhere. I think having that open mind as opposed to having rigid expectations is what allowed me to find friends who really fit me,” said Elliot.
“When things happen that you don’t particularly appreciate, being honest with your friends and calling them out on things that need to be called out, that’s healthy,” said Lee.
“You can’t close yourself off. We each have our own separate lives and entities, clubs and friends,” said Estes.
“I think our friendship has gotten stronger as the years go on because we all have more things going on and at the end of the day we can all come home,” Elliot agreed.
Freshman Dwight Bejlovec is glad that he joined the SPARK Bridge program. Through SPARK he was able to come to the campus a few weeks earlier and get to know Knox. Bejlovec is especially glad that he got more time to make friends. In particular he’s grown close to fellow freshman Roger Koji Wittmer.
“It was great to be able to know the place, since there was a smaller group you got to know people faster. We did all the big events together,” Wittmer said.
“It was very helpful for finding the buildings. When people say ‘WAC’ or ‘GDH,’ I know where all those things are,” Bejlovec said.
According to Bejlovec and Wittmer, downtime during the SPARK program was fairly low as they were getting adjusted to class schedules. However, the pair often liked to hang back at their dorm room suites to do homework together. Since Bejlovec is stronger in the humanities and Wittmer in STEM, the pair are often found tutoring each other.
“At a larger college or university, there are a lot more people. To me that feels stressful. Knowing that I can ask my teachers for help because of how small the classes sizes are has been really great for me,” Bejlovec said.
Things aren’t all business for the pair of friends, as another favorite hangout spot is the Taylor Lounge where students can play video games, ping pong or air hockey.
“We met most of our friends in SPARK, but since we have classes with other students we’ve made friends there as well,” Wittmer said.
“I didn’t talk to too many of my smaller SPARK groups, but the friends we made in the program [in general], we hang out with all the time,” Bejlovec said.
Wittmer and Bejlovec joke that the reason the two became friends is because of how quiet they both are, however Wittmer makes it clear that he was the one who approached Bejlovec first. Overall, the pair have had really positive experiences with their social circles and are excited for the years to come.
“I feel like people here are really accepting and I can be myself around them,” Bejlovec said.