KNOXVILLE — The journey of two inseparable roommates started in 2013 when both Acacia Stillwell and Rova Randrianarivo arrived at Johnson from two different parts of the world. Stillwell came from Etowah, Tenn. in pursuit of a human services degree and Randrianarivo came from Antananarivo, Madagascar in pursuit of an urban studies degree. Despite their cultural differences and career paths, the two developed a friendship that has blossomed into a sisterhood over the years.
Stillwell and Randrianarivo have been roommates ever since 2013 and are now experiencing the final chapter of their college years together. It is their last year on Johnson’s campus, but it is certainly not the ending of their sisterhood.
Entering their freshman year, they had no idea they would eventually end up close friends. What started as awkward communication between the two quickly turned into college years full of memories. Before arrival, Stillwell emailed Randrianarivo and immediately expressed affection for her soon to be roommate.
“I emailed her—I told her I had a fridge and that I loved her,” she said. “She was like ‘yea I love you too’ and it was just so awkward. “The first night here I said goodnight, love you and she rolled as close as she could to the side of the wall,” Stillwell recalled.
Throughout their four years together, they both shared many memories. They remember the day Johnson announced that they were officially the Royals. They recalled it being a huge deal to finally have an official name. Randrianarivo spent every break from school with Stillwell’s family and Stillwell also had the opportunity to meet Rova’s family.Randrianarivo saw her first snowfall in the winter of 2013 and Stillwell introduced her to snow cream for the first time.
“We’ve learned a lot from each other and to not just assume but to be open to asking questions,” Stillwell said. “Just being there through different seasons of our life has made our friendship grow”
As roommates they have witnessed each other’s doubts and experienced the transformations that have taken place over the years. At one point Stillwell never imagined she would one day be a resident assistant at Johnson.
“I said my freshman year that I was not going to be an R.A and it’s my senior year and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” she said. “I would say that’s one of the best things about my senior year.” I think at the end of your years, you yearn to have even more connections,”Stillwell said.
Over the years Randrianarivo has learned how to adjust to living with more people as an introvert and regrets not being more involved in campus life in her early years at Johnson. Her advice is for students to get involved and to find a balance between extracurricular activities and school work.
“My mistake the first few years, was that I was afraid that I could not manage my time well if I got involved on campus,” Randrianarivo said. “As you go through the years, you have more responsibility so I would encourage people to get involved on campus while they can.”
After graduation Randrianarvio plans to do an internship and Stillwell has different options to explore. Despite the path they embark on, both plan on continuing to develop their sisterhood that started in 2013. They are currently in the process of planning a trip to Madagascar together in December. They also plan on being there for each other for life events such as marriage and when they become parents. Stillwell and Randrianarvio plan to remain just as inseparable even after their final chapter is through.