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Roommates abroad cause housing frustration

One issue students might not think about when applying for study abroad is their living situation once they return to campus. Yet a number of students found they have little input on who their roommate will be the next semester.

Sukhmani Gill, a first-year Boston University School of Medicine student, said when she left campus to study abroad in Madrid during the spring semester of her senior year, the three other residents of her four-person apartment in Student Village I were randomly assigned a roommate.

“They didn’t really like the new roommate, but they didn’t really have a choice,” Gill said. “She just got assigned in there.”

Gill said she did not have any problems with BU Housing prior to her departure.

“If all processes are followed appropriately, there will be no issues securing housing,” said Nishmin Kashyap, director of BU Housing, in an email.

Students studying abroad receive an email from Housing mid-semester with instructions on how to reserve on-campus living space, according to the Housing website.

“If a student studying abroad knows of a space he or she specifically wants and it is available, we will do our best to assign the student to that specific space,” Kashyap said.

Kashyap said even students who know there will be space available in their rooms cannot request a person abroad to be their roommate.

“A roommate cannot request a student who is abroad,” he said. “The request must initiate from the student who is abroad.”

Students studying abroad in the fall receive housing assignments on the BU Student Link over winter break, according to the Housing website.

Students studying abroad spring semester must select a proxy to participate in Room Selection for them to reserve a living space on campus for the following semester.

Kelly Vitale, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences senior, said she was able to move into recently vacated rooms in a friend’s suite upon returning from studying abroad for a semester.

“I know other people who have tried in the past to pull in people that are coming back from abroad,” Vitale said. “They [BU Housing] won’t allow you to specify the name of the person that’s going to be put in the empty spot in your residence.”

Vitale said she needed to be persistent to fill her request, as BU Housing does not often allow on-campus residents to request new roommates for empty room spaces.

She said students do not understand why they cannot have their friends move in if they know there is going to be an open spot in their residence.

Vitale said she was pulled into a suite in Shelton Hall upon her return from a fall 2010 semester program in Dresden during her sophomore year. She and another friend returning from studying abroad moved into rooms that became available in their friend’s five-person suite that spring.

“We asked our friend to go to Housing and see if we could just get the spots when they moved out because we knew they were moving out,” Vitale said. “We just took the two empty spots in the suite.”

College of Communication junior Brooke Bastello said she studied in London in the fall 2011 semester, and upon her return to campus, she received her first choice for on-campus housing in Student Village II.

Bastello said students returning from fall study abroad programs typically receive their first choice.

“Everyone who wanted StuVi got StuVi, or if they wanted someplace else they got that,” she said.

Bastello said she encountered problems when trying to move into StuVi a few days early for sorority recruitment at the beginning of the spring 2012 semester.

“StuVi was open, but they wouldn’t let us kids who were abroad get our keys and move in,” Bastello said.

Vitale said students should not worry about on-campus living arrangements for spring semester when they return from study abroad.

“They [Housing] do take into account what you want,” Vitale said. “If you just have to live with random roommates for once, then that’s just how it is.”

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