First year to Senior year: Roommates face hard goodbyes after 4 years living together

Arianna Burnham and Christine Koh are pictured as first-years (left) and as senior (right). Arianna Burnham and Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

This graduation season brings varied emotions to all seniors as they look back on their four years spent at Tufts. However, some seniors also have to say goodbye to the only roommate they have ever known. For these seniors, their first year roommate was integral to their college experience and supported them all four years. 

Here are the stories of Sarah Tessler and Maddie Oliff, Anna Champion and Emma Wolfe, Paul Katsiaunis and Paul Di Filippo, Arianna Burnham and Christine Koh and Aberdeen Bird and Alexa Bishopric

Sarah Tessler and Maddie Oliff

Courtesy Sarah Tessler

Courtesy Maddie Oliff

Living on the East Coast already, Tessler thought it would be fun to room with someone from farther away. Oliff, who is from Chicago but Jewish like Tessler, seemed like a great fit. Tessler used this as the impetus to make the first move and message Oliff on Facebook before their first year. This not only solidified their living situation for their first year but also their next four. 

Oliff claims they were friends as soon as they hugged for the first time during pre-orientation in the Lewis hallway. Just from meeting Oliff’s mom, Tessler knew they were going to be in for a fun first year, she said.

Tessler was right. Throughout their first year, their room remained the hot spot for social gatherings. As they shared the same group of friends, it only made sense that the two spent the most time in their dorm room. 

What elevated their friendship to be more than that of roommates was their shared passion for education. In their first-year spring, they both decided to take an education course together. Already personally close, in the classroom they were able to get intellectually closer as they shared about their different educational backgrounds. As seniors, they even taught an Experimental College class about the education system as co-teachers . 

Looking back on their years, most of what they recall is only good times. Tessler still keeps notes that Oliff left for her in their old dorm rooms. Only one memory comes back sour. Sophomore year, Oliff got really into knitting. She made a scarf and allowed Tessler to wear it to a date, but Tessler ended up losing it. Looking to apologize, Tessler made a decorated card for Oliff, but spilled glitter all over Oliff’s bed as she gave it to her. Although mad for a bit, they got over this small hardship quickly. 

For Tessler and Oliff, they are more than roommates; they are family. 

Sarah has just a different label of a friend than any of my other friends at Tufts because she has kind of replaced my sisters,” Oliff said.

Both could not comprehend what it would be like to not be friends with their roommate. Looking forward, they recognize the power of a good living situation. 

“It’s so nice to have someone to come home to and be your best self and sometimes your worst self,” Oliff said. “And like having that home base.” 

For these two, their roommate relationship is ingrained in their college experience. 

Maddie is Tufts for me and will always be Tufts for me,” Tessler said. “She is family.” 

Anna Champion and Emma Wolfe

Courtesy Anna Champion

Courtesy Anna Champion

Champion and Wolfe were not only roommates, but also teammates on the Tufts quidditch team. As first-years, they were often confused for one another, and it got to the point where they received the duo nickname “Anemma” by other teammates. On the team, they were always traveling buddies. They credit much of their friendship to this team. 

“It was really great to have a teammate also be your roommate. [Our first] year especially because we were really able to bond over the quidditch team,” Wolfe said. “The room became the hangout spot for all the [first-year] quidditch players and even some of the older players too.”

In their dorm room, game nights were frequent. On Champion’s Wii they played Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. with their friends. They had a tradition that whenever anyone new came over they were forced to make their own Mii character on the console. 

Originally, Champion was really nervous that Wolfe was not going to like her. However, right off the bat they became friends. Over the past four years, they have blended into each other, speaking the same and sharing many mannerisms. 

Next year, they, unfortunately, will be living in different cities. This transition is hard for them to grasp. 

“Anna has been such a constant supportive presence in my life, and, of course, we are going to be still friends and still gonna talk. But it’s gonna be weird to not be able to come downstairs and have Anna watching Supernatural on the TV,” Wolfe said. “Hanging out with Anna has always been a refuge for me.”

Both Champion and Wolfe feel that their friendship defined their life at Tufts.

“Almost every memory that was super influential at college, Emma was right there. I could not have had the college experience I had without Emma,” Champion said.

Wolfe feels the same way. 

“I cannot separate the good memories of college with the good memories of Anna; they are the same,” Wolfe said. 

Paul Katsiaunis and Paul Di Filippo

Courtesy Paul Katsiaunis

Katsiaunis and Di Filippo, originally matched on the Tufts roommate survey with a 98% pairing, both thought it would be too difficult rooming with someone who had the same name. They decided to room with others for their first year. Against the odds, they both ended up being in the same FIT pre-orientation group, and right away they became best friends. 

During their first year, even though they did not live together, they spent almost all their time together, even sleeping over at each other’s rooms. From sophomore year to senior year, they lived together, and they will continue doing so after graduation in Boston. Over the years, sharing a name and space has only made them closer. 

When reminiscing over their roommate relationship, all they can remember are the shenanigans they participated in. One time, Katsiaunis came to Di Filippo’s room at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday to show him a child’s tricycle he found. At dawn, they raced the tricycle down Packard Avenue. Another time, they wore matching Canadian tuxedos — full denim outfits — to a formal event, where they each were meeting mystery dates. At one point, they even adopted a pet fish for a full year. 

“Every shenanigan that goes down is day to day. You don’t think twice about it,” Katsiaunis said.

Once they moved in together sophomore year in West Hall, the shenanigans only increased. They created a duct tape table they shared between their beds to rest their phones on at night. On nice days, they would put their speakers by the window so their music would fill the quad as tour groups passed.

Through spending so much time together they created their own way of speaking. They claim they watched the movie “John Wick” (2014) weekly. They always quote this movie and other YouTube videos when they speak. 

“When we are talking in public, people won’t understand us,” Di Filippo said. “It is our own nonsense gibberish.” 

One of the only issues they had is that Di Filippo always wanted to keep the windows open no matter the weather outside, while Katsiaunis preferred them closed.

[Di Filippo] likes the room freezing. He likes the room two degrees,” Katsianus said. “It could be snowing and he wants the windows all open, and [he’d] like to poke a hole in the wall to make it more cold.” 

Looking back on their time at Tufts, they feel as if they could not have had the same experience without being roommates. Katsiaunis explained how compatible they are. 

“Ever hear in physics like constructive interference, we definitely feed off each other’s energy. It’s like a multiplier,” Katsiaunis said.

Arianna Burnham and Christine Koh

Courtesy Arianna Burnham

Courtesy Arianna Burnham

First connecting in the Tufts Class of 2020 Facebook group, Burnham and Koh planned a meetup in New York City. Meeting in person, they learned they didn’t only share common interests, like their Facebook blurbs suggested, but they also had compatible personalities. Then at Jumbo Days they met up again, and sealed the deal on rooming together for their first year.

Burnham and Koh shared their first dorm room in Houston Hall, where they made their other friends too. Most of their social life was spent in the common room or bouncing between other friends’ dorm rooms in the building. Outside, they also copy edited for the Daily together. 

Their first roommate triumph together was making the boys bathroom on their floor gender neutral. Their dorm room was right next to the designated boys bathroom, and a lengthy walk from the designated girls bathroom. Not wanting to make that hike every time they took a shower, they asked to integrate the bathrooms. Although it was never “official,” they set the precedent on the floor. 

As roommates, they say they balance each other out. Burnham is more on the shy and laid-back side, while Koh is more outgoing and loud. Their living compatibility is what brought comfort to their first year at Tufts

“Living with someone and starting out [your first] year with someone, you just immediately have each other as your main support system,” Burnham said. “Once we came back to our room it wasn’t like we were in a social setting any more. It’s like you’re at home, and that’s very much what our friendship felt like.” 

Over their four years, they have noticed their influence on one another. Burnham commented that Koh helped expand her music taste. Koh realized she had picked up on many of Burnham’s phrases. For the two, it was really the little things that brought them closer. 

“You get to know the other person’s daily life so much better when you live with someone, rather than a typical friend,” Burnham said. “The tiny aspects of what you do everyday. This is just a person who knows so much more.” 

The two are going to miss the convenience of living together that they had these past four years. 

“Whenever anything happens or we go somewhere and see people, or something like that, we would always come home to each other. We would always nightcap together,” Koh said. “You’re always together without even making plans or anything.” 

Aberdeen Bird and Alexa Bishopric

Courtesy Aberdeen Bird

Courtesy Aberdeen Bird

“Literally I walked into the room, and Alexa ran over and hugged me, and I was like ‘oooh,’ and then she was like, ‘I’m so sorry if that was really weird,’ and then I was like, ‘ohh we are going to be friends,’” Bird said, as she recalled meeting her four-year roommate for the first time. 

Bird and Bishopric were friends as soon as they met. As first-years, they enjoyed getting ready together before going out. They would blast music and, while getting ready, they would swap clothing items and pick out each other’s outfits. 

“[As a first-year], especially, it was so nice to have a roommate because neither of us really became friends with other people in our dorm,” Bishopric said. “It was nice to come home to someone.”

Outside of the room, they were co-presidents of the Students for Environmental Awareness club in their first-year spring and sophomore fall. 

Bishopric, who is from Miami, had never experienced cold winters before coming to Tufts. Her mom, who was excited for her, sent them sleds in the mail. On the first snow, they went sledding down the President’s Lawn.

“Alexa’s perception of snow over college has been really funny,” Bird said. “She loved snow at first, and I was like ‘You aren’t going to like it,’ and then last year Alexa said, ‘Aberdeen you are right, I hate it.’” 

When Bird was looking for a roommate, she didn’t have that many requirements. She just wanted a clean roommate that would go out with her and wouldn’t monogram their room. Bishopric has surpassed those expectations.

“I feel like we have the same sense of humor, that other people wouldn’t think is funny,” Bishopric said.

If you told them their first year that they would be living together senior year, they both agreed they wouldn’t have been surprised. 

Next year, they unfortunately will not be living together, which will be a difficult change. 

“We haven’t not lived together in four years,” Bishopric said. “I really thought we had all this time left. Especially senior spring, with senior week and all these fun things. I imagined us doing a lot of that stuff together, and having that goodbye.” 

Bird is going to miss all of college, which she got to experience with her long-term roommate, Bishopric.

“It’s always nice to be able to run downstairs and be like, ‘Listen to this thing that happened,’” Bird said. “[I’m] feeling all sad and sappy. When else besides college do you live within 10 minutes of all of your friends?”


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