How to survive the roommate experience

For everyone who has moved into new homes on and off campus, the challenges of moving furniture and figuring out how to fit your entire life into a too-small closet have likely come up. With this comes the challenge of living with roommates. 

Having a roommate is usually part of the college experience. It can be pretty fun, especially if you and your roommate hit it off. It can also be a lot of work, especially if this is your first time sharing a living space. Everyone has different habits, and this can lead to disagreement and irritation. Here are some tips to ensure you have the best roommate experience and are equipped with the tools you need to solve fights when — not if —  they happen.

1. Communication is key

If you have a problem with your roommate playing heavy metal music at 3 a.m., tell them. Deciding to be passive-aggressive by leaving your dirty socks on their side of the room might feel great, but won’t actually solve any problems. Often, sitting down to talk and share grievances can reveal your roommate may not even realize his or her behavior is problematic, and she or he will be more than happy to change it. 

2. Set rules

When you first arrive to live in on-campus housing, you will have to fill out a roommate agreement. Next, you should list expectations you have for each other and set boundaries related to overnight guests, quiet hours and more. Even if you live off campus, I highly suggest you at least have an oral agreement with your roommates as to what behavior is acceptable and what is not. It can save you a lot of pain in the future. 

3. Pick your battles 

It’s reasonable to be annoyed by your roommate having long conversations on the phone while you’re trying to study for a test, but realize that this is his or her living space, too. Accept that you will have to be the bigger person sometimes and go study in the library instead. Not every issue is worth the confrontation.

4. Be considerate 

Things you’ve done all your life may frustrate your roommate, like eating takeout in bed and filling the room with the smell of barbeque garlic chicken. Open a window, buy some air freshener or just enjoy your strongly scented meals in the dining halls. The same goes for things like leaving your dirty laundry in piles on the floor or blocking the walkways with your entire shoe collection. 

5. Don’t act as a doormat

While it is nice to be considerate and change certain parts of your behavior when asked to, there is such a thing as being too nice. Roommates don’t always have reasonable requests. If they ever ask you to stop using an alarm to wake up in the morning because it annoys them or leave for a weekend trip with a note asking you to take care of their four pet fish with no notice, then it’s perfectly alright to say no. You need that alarm to wake up on time and you have other things to do. They’ll just have to be considerate and learn to live with you, too. 

6. Talk to your RA

If you live on campus and all else fails or something goes terribly wrong, and leads to tears and screaming, always go to your Residential Adviser. They are trained for conflict resolution and will try and come up with a solution.

7. Remember that it’s only temporary 

You can always go for a single room the next year. Try not to let things stress you out too much, and take it as a learning experience. You are learning how to live with people from around the world, how to communicate effectively and how to resolve conflicts. You may not always end up best friends with your roommate, but managing to coexist is an achievement enough. 

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