Some of the scariest college horror stories are roommate stories. It’s terrifying having to plunge into a new environment and be forced to live with people you know nothing about. If you’re unlucky and your new roommates don’t even keep their social media up to date, there will be absolutely nothing to judge them on. If you’re unluckier and you find out you have nothing in common or that there is friction, there are some preemptive measures that you definitely should take in order to deal with the situation as early as possible.
While I was lucky enough to go to a small liberal arts college where the residential office had enough time to pair everyone with people they could potentially click with, I realize that many of you guys don’t have this privilege. Going to a school that’s bigger than 2000 people means that the administration just can’t deal with each student as an individual. One of my best friends, Claire, from high school ended up going to one of these schools. She was randomly paired up with a girl that she promptly friended on Facebook. Claire wanted to get to know her roommate as soon as possible as this was the person she was going to be living with for an entire year. She wanted to be best friends with this girl so that every night would be like a sleepover. Things didn’t turn out that way. When she messaged her roommate, she found her to be unresponsive and disinterested in everything Claire had to say. They didn’t click and they didn’t have anything in common. Claire still had hope that things would be better once they met in person, as it would be harder to ignore someone when you’re living in the same room.
Claire quickly found out that it was possible. Her roommate was constantly inviting people over without Claire’s permission. One time she had a party with over 10 people over, and Claire was forced to sleep in her friend’s room. Every day, they would just acknowledge each other’s’ presence by saying “Good morning” and “Good night”, but that was the extent of their relationship. It wasn’t a horror story, so to speak, but it definitely wasn’t the ideal situation either. Claire wanted to confront her roommate about all the pet peeves, but she was also afraid of disrupting the peace.
In this type of dilemma (which is unfortunately much too common), the best thing to do would be to consult the resident assistant or peer advisor or whatever your school calls it. They are usually experts at solving interpersonal issues and they can tell you what the best possible plan is. If they’re cool enough, they may even just casually hint to your roommate to stop doing what they’re doing that’s bugging you. In any case, it’s a good place to start.
If you still haven’t run into any problems with roommates yet, anticipate some to come. There is not one person I’ve met that has had a completely successful relationship with their roommate. They may be best friends, but this doesn’t mean that their relationship is a smooth one. Living in such close quarters is bound to lead to problems (have you seen the size of those dorm rooms? It’s like they want us to run into conflict). So, try to draw up a roommate agreement. Think about things like:
• Parties in the dorm room
• Having people over, especially if they’re there overnight
• Study times/quiet times
• Alcohol or smoking policies
• Touching and taking personal belongings
• Cleanliness of the room
It’s not exactly an easy process to go through, but it definitely helps later on when conflicts do arise. Having set rules really makes everyone’s life easier.
Also, remember to go back and revise the roommate agreement as the year goes on. People change and so do habits, so once you and your roommate start to get used to each other’s presence, it may be good to add on or drop some of the previously-made agreements.
If random agreements written on a piece of paper don’t help, as an preventative measure you can always just make sure that you’re never in the room at the same time. If you’re never in the room when your roommate is (and vice versa), there will be less of a chance that you get into an argument.
All in all, it’s all about compromise. You have to deal with the things about your roommate that annoy you, and they probably find things about you that annoy them too. Just try to live with it (it’s only a year). Hopefully you’ll get used to each other after a while and learn to avoid each other when necessary and when to confront each other, if necessary.
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