Although their hometowns are just 5 miles apart, it wasn’t until Surabhi and Siddhi left California for the University of Illinois, a school over 2,000 miles away, that they first met.
“What day was it?” Surabhi asks Siddhi. “That day when the whole freshman class was together?”
“Ohhhh, it was that weekend, when we all went to Memorial Stadium,” replies Siddhi.
“Memorial Stadium, yeah!” says Surabhi. “The whole class had a barbecue lunch together. It was that day.”
The girls are referring to New Student Convocation, one of the first activities new Illini participate in as part of the university’s annual Welcome Days. Following an official welcome from the Chancellor, students enjoy a picnic with their college.
“I was completely alone because I didn’t have a roommate and I didn’t know anyone,” Surabhi says. “I was like, ‘The first person I see, I’m just going to go and sit down right next to them and somehow make conversation.’ So I just picked out a random person. And it turned out to be a mutual friend of ours, and that’s how we got introduced to each other.”
Over the course of conversation, Surabhi and Siddhi discovered not only that they were from the same state, but also that they were living in the same residence hall, Saunders—Surabhi on the third floor and Siddhi on the fourth.
Like all new freshmen, Siddhi and Surabhi were nervous about fitting in at their new school and looking to make friends. Soon after the picnic, Siddhi asked Surabhi if she wanted to get dinner in the dining hall. Surabhi was quick to say yes.
That night, as they bonded over California and missing home, the two clicked. “I hadn’t met many people who I could immediately just start talking to,” Siddhi says. “You know how sometimes you talk to someone and conversation flows so easily? That’s how it was with Surabhi.”
It wasn’t long before the pair began hanging out every day. Although they weren’t in any of the same classes, they did everything else together. They could often be spotted studying at Grainger Library, playing Frisbee on the Quad, and grabbing Bangkok Thai for dinner (“It’s soooo good!” says Surabhi).
Surabhi and Siddhi are often confused for sisters, and sometimes even twins. Throughout their freshman year, they were regularly mistaken for roommates, too. “Surabhi didn’t have a roommate, but everyone on the third floor was convinced that I lived there and I was her roommate until the end of the year,” says Siddhi. “People were like, ‘You live on the fourth floor? No way!’”
Now actual roommates, Surabhi and Siddhi reflect on the significance of their friendship. “Freshman year, you meet a lot of people, but not all of them stick,” says Siddhi. “We were some of the only ones who actually stayed friends to the end of the year.”
“We saw a lot of friendships break,” Surabhi says, “and it just wasn’t like that.”
The girls recognize that their experience was unique, and they’re thankful for it. In fact, the two insist that had it not been for each other, they wouldn’t have formed as many friendships at Illinois.
“I always find myself thinking back,” says Surabhi. “Since I didn’t have a roommate, I don’t know how I would have made friends if I didn’t meet Siddhi. My life would be so different than it is now.”
When asked if they have a favorite memory together, Surabhi describes their last day as freshmen: “Before we moved out, Siddhi, myself, and another friend all went out to dinner, and then we hung out on the Quad at midnight and reminisced about the year. It just felt so rewarding to be able to think back and see how much things had changed.”
As Surabhi and Siddhi near the end of their sophomore year, one thing hasn’t changed: their friendship. The two will be rooming together again next year, and they’re looking forward to everything still to come.
“We have two more years here,” Surabhi says. “So many more memories can be made.”