The Holiday

Two roommates fall for each other when their housemates leave.

Finding a roommate is hard enough. Finding a roommate in another country is even harder.

Elizabeth was nervous to live with Brits for the first time. As an American pursuing her PhD in the UK, she wasn’t sure what to expect from the house hunt.

She toured a seven-person home that was looking to fill three rooms, feeling comfortable enough to take the plunge after meeting a few of the current tenants. But when it came time to move in a month or so later, it was new roommate Isabella who answered the door.

The pair got past an awkward first encounter and soon became fast friends. But it wasn’t until all their roommates had left for Easter vacation that they got to spend time together alone. Now, they’re approaching their one year anniversary.

Here’s their story. 

Elizabeth (left) and Isabella.

How did you meet?

Elizabeth: I had already been studying in the UK for a year in a different city. I moved to Sheffield to start my Ph.D. I was kind of unsure of where I was going to live. I was nervous about having to live with British people for the first time, because I had been living in student accommodations. I was looking up house shares and I found this really nice one. 

Issy actually hadn’t moved in yet when I came to view the house, but I didn’t move in until a month or two later. I was walking up to the door with all my suitcases and all my stuff, and I had just driven a couple of hours to get there. And I ring the doorbell and Issy opens the door and she’s kind of just standing in the doorway for a while. And I had to be like “Hi, you must be the new housemate. Can I get in please?” It was honestly a bit uncomfortable at first. 

Isabella: I wasn’t there when all the housemates met Elizabeth, so I only knew two facts about this mystery housemate: that she was doing a PhD and that her name was Elizabeth. I had nothing to go on, really. I straight away thought she was very cute and then proceeded to find her very sweet and charming and expressive and lovely. 

What were your first impressions?

Isabella: She was wearing some kind of athletic shorts and a flannel and have a sort of vibe that was very cute. I remember she had a friend in tow and I remember thinking That’s nice. She hasn’t been in the UK for very long and she’s already made such a close friend that’s even helping her move to a different city and volunteer their time like that. I think it’s quite indicative of her. 

Elizabeth: I remember thinking Oh she’s definitely out of my league. Which was interesting, because I’m usually not one to look at someone and think about the dating potential. But this was an instance of Oh, wow, really cute. But that won’t happen. But then she wouldn’t get out of the doorway and things were a little bit weird. 

Isabella: It was a bit weird, to be fair.

Where did things go from there? 

Elizabeth: The two of us and one other housemaid had all moved in within three or four months of each other. We were the new kids in this seven person house. So we spent a lot of time together, just the three of us. 

I think I moved in in August and we didn't start hanging out one on one until maybe March or April of the next of the next year. And it was only really then that we were like Oh, wow, this is interesting. We actually get along beyond the long chats we have with our other housemates in the house. 

Isabella: We would always hang out as the three of us, and I think by default that the housemate became a bit of a buffer. But then last Easter everyone went home for Easter break. And we sort of looked at each other and decided to just go out and spend a day together, rent a car. We ended up going to Whitby, the seaside town. And that was the first proper day we spent one-on-one. We spent 14 hours together. The long drive gave us a lot of time to chat. And there was one point when we were sitting there having fish and chips and were thinking Oh, this is kind of feeling like a date

I had had a massive crush and I was very into Elizabeth this whole time, very attracted to her. And I think it hadn’t really occurred to her at all. I’d even flirt with her on occasions and it wasn’t necessarily received. It wasn’t until that day on Easter Sunday that it occurred to her as well. 

Elizabeth: What they tell you when you move into a house share is Never date a housemate. Because if you break up, it’s the most awkward thing for everyone living there. So in the back of my mind before this trip, I’m thinking If this doesn’t go well, this could be really awkward for both of us. And so I took the Easter trip as a chance to see if this could work without it being weird. 

What was your first date? 

Isabella: We started hanging out a lot one on one the following month. We hadn't spent a whole lot of time in each other's rooms, just the two of us. And I'm someone who eats a lot of fruit. Like I love cutting out bowls of fruit. I would cut myself a bowl of fruit and cut out one for her and I would take it to her room. I would make excuses like Oh, I keep buying too much mango and it's getting too soft. Would you help me eat some?

That carried on for I guess sort of like the best part of two months. And we'd also be going on outings, go on long walks around Sheffield, just spending a lot more time together. And it became more and more obvious that it wasn't just friendship. I remember texting her after we had gone to a petting zoo “Time spent with you has fast become my favorite.” And I later heard she sent that to her sister and asked “Is this a bit flirty? Does this mean what I think it means?”

And then there was another time when it was going to be a really sunny day and I texted her saying “Do you want to go for brunch tomorrow? And maybe a walk and a wander around the city?” And that was really asking her on a date, and I think she realized. 

Elizabeth: We use May 26 as our official anniversary.

Were people surprised you were dating? 

Elizabeth: Our housemates were surprised but happy for us. And a few friends outside the house were very much like “Oh, yeah, this does explain a bit.” 

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Interviewed and transcribed by Nicolas Vega. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.