Aeden Marcus and Al Bilski.

“I use the word ‘kindred spirits’ sometimes to talk about us,” Aeden Marcus (left) said about Quincy House roommate Al Bilski.

Photos by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Random roommates turned best friends

5 min read

Housing Day can be extra stressful for first-years who go it alone. Fear not, say those who’ve been there: ‘You will find your people.’

Aiden Aguirre ’24 was taking courses remotely in the spring of his first year when he received notification that he had missed the deadline to register as part of a blocking group.

“I was pretty stressed,” the Eliot House resident recalled. “But everything actually worked out. My best friends right now are my random roommates from sophomore year.”

The weeks leading up to Housing Day are stressful. Students carefully navigate their social circles to form blocking groups of up to eight people, then anxiously await the news of which upper-level House will become their home for the next three years. But some first-years face the additional uncertainty of not knowing who their housemates will be: free agents, or those who enter the housing lottery as a block of one.

Ahead of this year’s big reveal on Thursday, some students who have been through it all before have reassuring stories for first-years going it alone.

For Aguirre, a mutual love of hiking and backpacking solidified his friendship with Yanni Raymond ’24, with whom he was randomly matched. Now in their junior year, Aguirre and Raymond still share a suite and plan to backpack in the Adirondacks over spring break. Aguirre also formed additional ties to the Eliot community through meals, Stein (a weekly House celebration typically centered around music and pizza), and weekly poetry study breaks hosted by Eliot Co-Faculty Dean Stephanie Paulsell.

Aiden Aguirre.
“My best friends right now are my random roommates from sophomore year,” Aiden Aguirre ’24 said.

“You will find your people,” Aguirre said. “The Harvard community and the housing system are set up so that just naturally happens. I still make new friends here and in classes. In your House, you will make those connections and you’ll keep making them throughout your whole time.”

When Quincy House resident Aeden Marcus ’25 took a leave of absence in the latter half of her first year to care for her physical and mental health, it meant entering the housing lottery as a free agent by default.

“Stepping away was absolutely one of the hardest decisions I’ve made, but one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself,” she said.

Marcus received her roommate assignment over the summer and arranged a Zoom call with Al Bilski ’25, a stranger who would soon become one of her best friends.

“As soon as we got on and started talking, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to work. This is somebody I’m going to get along with,’” Marcus said. “But there were still nerves.”

Her nerves dissipated almost immediately after she and Bilski met in person. Despite different routines — Marcus is an early bird, while Bilski is more of a night owl — the two have a lot in common, from fundamental values such as respect and kindness to a shared interest in being the best possible plant parents. They frequently grab meals together and have become part of each other’s friend groups.

“We’re both just comfortable with people and comfortable being ourselves in a way that helps us get along really well,” Marcus said. “I use the word ‘kindred spirits’ sometimes to talk about us.”

Outside of the pair’s cozy hallway double, Marcus has enjoyed getting to know other Quincy residents.

“You meet people in the dining hall, you see the same people over and over again, you run into that person that you share a bathroom with — all the things that happen in your first year, but now you get to do it for multiple years,” she said. “The upper-year system is really conducive to finding your people in whatever way you can. There are so many wonderful people here in all of the different House communities that it’s just impossible not to run into somebody at some point that you click with.”

Marcus and Aguirre agreed that their House administrators, who reached out to them with surveys about lifestyle habits, roommate preferences, and hobbies, played an invaluable role in finding a sense of belonging in the solo process.

Said Krystle Petrie, Quincy’s House administrator: “My process for assigning roommates is to find cordiality amongst the individuals or group … where they both (or all) feel comfortable to thrive.”

“We’re all there to talk through situations, strategize, brainstorm, and discuss what options are on the table,” added Charles Lockwood, Adams House’s resident dean.

Each House runs its own sophomore housing assignment process. When  students wish to change roommates, they work with the House Administrator to identify other options within the House.

Blocking alone may be intimidating, but there are countless opportunities to connect with other students in House communities and elsewhere on campus. When asked if they could go back in time and enter the housing lottery as part of a larger blocking group, Aguirre and Marcus both answered with a confident “no.”

“I’d miss the deadline again,” Aguirre said with a smile.