“Your college roommate could be your new best friend!” my dad would always tell me in high school. He would tell me stories all the crazy things him and his roommates did together. The fact that my dad was still good friends with them today ramped up my excitement, and I looked forward to finally moving into my dorm freshman year of college.
What he failed to mention was the fact that my roommate and I might not get along that well, and I am sad to say that is what became reality.
While it wasn’t so much that my roommate and I hated each other, it was more like our relationship was nonexistent. We didn’t talk to each other, only opening our mouths to say the rare “hello” if we both happened to be in the kitchen. It was more like we lived around each other rather than with each other, and, most times, it felt like I was living alone because we hardly ever saw each other.
Looking back on it now, I know I could have done a lot more to try to have a better relationship with my roommate if I had known how to go about it.
Even with University’s roommate assignment surveys and systems that try to pair students with similar interests, it can be hard for those students to click right away because of differing habits and values.
Getting to know the person you’re going to live with is the first and most important thing you should do. Take the time to learn more about each other like where you’re from, what your family is like and what your interests are. Maybe even schedule a time to share a meal. This will develop some respect between you both, and it serves as a foundation for a good living situation.
“It was kinda bad last year because…the people they assigned me with weren’t similar to me in a way,” said Raven Scott, a sophomore finance major, “They were all older than me, so it was just like I wanted somebody my age going through the same stuff I was going through… Just go in it with an open mind. You might not enjoy the first time but…I wouldn’t mind trying again.”
Next comes setting ground rules—and this is where writing out a roommate agreement may come in handy.
Discuss study time and quiet hours. Clarify what times you prefer to study and sleep. Answer important questions: What temperature should you keep your living space? Are you comfortable sharing food and clothes? Is having friends over often okay? What’s your cooking schedule if you have one? Even if you feel like some of these are a given, it is important to make sure you and your roommate are on the same page.
On that note, communication is also important. If your roommate does something that’s bothering you or if you want to know if it’s okay to do something, talking about it with your roommate is recommended. Again, even if you feel like it should be understood what’s okay and what isn’t, it’s good to make sure you and your roommate are on the same page. This way, you can avoid upsetting someone and starting an argument in the future.
“My roommate and I were randomly assigned freshman year, and we are going on our 3rd year together!” said Libby Hartley, a junior nursing major, “Be kind and communicate. We are still working on the latter. Last year, we ended up with 100 fish sticks because we both [got] fish sticks without communicating. Now we have 60 cheese sticks.”
If you and your roommate have vastly different schedules, it’s a good idea to devise a more efficient way of communicating. If you can’t speak to each other, try texting, emailing or leaving notes. These can be good alternatives—especially if you are anxious about confrontation. If you have an RA, they can help you sort out any issues you may have as they are trained to deal with such situations.
Following through on your respective responsibilities is also a good way to stay on good terms with each other. If you have to pay rent or other expenses, be sure to pay them on time and prevent ill will in the future. Staying on top of chores follows the same idea.
It is also important to base your relationship with your roommate on respect rather than favors. If you only concentrate on who’s turn it is to buy milk, then the basis of your relationship becomes very material and based on an exchange system rather than anything substantial.
Establish boundaries. Make it clear when or if your roommate is allowed in your room. This also extends to food and your personal relationship. If you’re thinking about having a more intimate relationship with your roommate, keep in mind how that will affect you in the future.
“I was in Southern Pines [as a freshman], so I had three roommates and I hated all but one,” said Garrett Pruett, a junior criminal justice major, “It just depends on who they are…Just because you’re roommates with someone doesn’t mean you have to be friends with them by any means. You’re just living with them until you find something else. That’s how I see it.”
Above all, be kind and considerate. Be thoughtful towards your roommate and be mindful of your actions on your shared space. Negotiate and compromise to accommodate their needs and yours to create a healthy living environment.
After all this, if your roommate still drives you crazy or makes you feel unwelcome, it may be a good time to request a room change or find somewhere else to stay. It’s good to not quit too early as sticking it out can help you gain some interpersonal and adaptation skills, but sometimes moving out is less an act of giving up and more about finding a better situation for yourself. In the end, it is important to keep yourself in mind as well as your roommate and do what is best for both of you.