Where have you lived, Jordan Wyn?
North Charles Street, Baltimore, Md., $850/mo.
My randomly assigned roommate and I were on the third floor of an ancient three-story monolith in the girls-only wing. My roomie was in ROTC, which meant her alarm went off at 4 a.m., but she let me stay with her family for a week when the dorms shut down and fed me as if she was fattening me up for fairy tale witches.
St. Paul and 33rd Street, Baltimore, Md., $900/mo.
Lottery win! My chosen roommate and I scored a good number and were able to pick a dorm where we each got our own bedroom plus a shared living room and kitchen. She turned out to be a little more Type A than anticipated, but all in all we got along and enjoyed our fake adulthood in our fake apartment.
North Charles and 32nd Street, Baltimore, Md., $750/mo.
I rented a weird little one bedroom on the fourth story of a four-floor building across the street from campus. It had a “gnome door,” a little half-height door that led to a storage closet and presumably John Malkovich’s head, a fire escape that let me clamber up to the roof, and mice that came in through holes behind the kitchen sink. (Really, it was a relief to find the mice, because before then I’d just thought the glimpses of movement I saw out of the corner of my eye meant that the solitary life was driving me insane.)
Kajigaya, Tokyo, Japan, $?/mo.
I studied abroad in Japan for half a year, and stayed in an all-girls dorm building an hour and a half outside the city. The rent was part of the study abroad package, so it remians a mystery, but I’m thinking it was cheap. My 6×8 room had two windows and enough space for three people to sit on the bed and watch America’s Next Top Model on a laptop. There was a small dining room on the first floor where the 30 girls in the building had breakfast and dinner and the kitchen lady and I talked about LOST (Sawyer = cool across cultures). The house manager locked the front doors at 11 p.m., so we had many nights out that lasted until five, when we waited on the stoop for the doors to open at six.
W University Parkway, Baltimore, Md., $600/mo.
Back in the states (after a harrowing international housing search), I moved into the second bedroom of a young professional’s place up the street from campus. I felt like a fabulously lucky interloper. There were a lot of lace doilies and knick nacks and other design decisions that clashed with my minimalist style, but by George there was also a staffed reception and a mail room and an accessible and non-sleazy management company that actually fixed things. My roommate’s mom visited for months at a time from Cyprus and cooked elaborate meals for me even though she couldn’t remember my name.
Westwood, Los Angeles, Calif., $700/mo. (plus $250 for 3 months of parking)
I took an unpaid internship at a production company in Los Angeles and found a summer sublet near UCLA. The other two roommates in the two-bedroom apartment—who hadn’t been told by the regular living room occupant that she was subletting, surprise—were perfectly nice and perfectly filthy people, who had let their long, dark hair get matted and trampled into the thin carpet to the point I was ripping it up with my hands. The also were incapable of taking out the trash. But they totally redeemed themselves when the girl I was subletting from stole my security deposit. The roommates sent me a check for the stolen deposit and kicked the thieving girl out.
Arlington, Va., $500/mo.
After Los Angeles sucked my life, my soul, and my savings, I moved in with my cousin in DC. My room was small, but the apartment was great: There was cable and a shared backyard with sweet quirky neighbors including a woman who had been Tim Gunn’s professor back in his unfashionable school days. My cousin super undercharged me for rent, let me eat her food, drove me to Trader Joe’s, and in general was the best.
Tokyo, Japan, 46,500 yen/mo. (~$620/mo.)
I enrolled in an MBA program in Tokyo, which meant international house searching, round two. I landed a relatively spacious room in a share house with five other girls. People are still filthy animals, but I pay absurdly low rent to be no more than 30 minutes away from anywhere in central Tokyo, so I’ll take it. I am now the girl who isn’t afraid to chase out the rats, who defeats piles of other peoples’ dishes without leaving passive aggressive notes, and who can unlock your door with a nail file if you locked yourself out. Forget what you see in movies, these are the real ninja skills.
Jordan Wyn is an MBA candidate at Hitotsubashi University and a fiction writer, but swears she couldn’t make some of her roommate stories up.