Getting Along with Your Roommate

One of the most difficult challenges for a freshman in college is having to live in the same room as someone else, particularly someone with whom you are not related in the slightest.  This is more difficult for single children, but even if you have lived together with a sibling in the same bedroom, it can still be a trying experience.  In addition to the brand new stresses of living on your own, being separated from the support of your family and high school friends, college-level academics, and everything else, you have to figure out how to deal with someone who may have a completely different schedule and completely different priorities than you.

The most important thing to remember in interacting with your roommate is communication.  It is inevitable that you and your roommate will clash.  He/she may get up earlier than you, he/she may enjoy blasting loud music while you are trying to study, or he/she may make your room a mess.  You could be doing things to annoy him/her at the same time.  No interaction between two people is a one-way street, so if you two start to argue, you probably both did something that upset the other.  But such conflicts can be avoided if you are just honest with your roommate about your grievances.  If your roommate does something that bothers you, do not feel embarrassed to tell him/her.  If he/she is a reasonable person, and you explain your position without sounding accusatory, he/she will understand and do his/her best to adjust her behavior to accommodate.

At the same time, you have to be willing to accommodate your roommate’s needs.  Do not expect your roommate to completely change his/her sleep schedule just for you and that you will not have to do anything in return.  For the sake of positive interaction, you should think about your personal habits and consider how many of them are necessary and how many of them are not.  Only you can decide what is necessary, but if you say that all of your habits are equally crucial, you are not being honest.  You need to prioritize your habits so that you are capable of making an adjustment for your roommate.  You should think about this before you actually get to college and talk with your roommate near the beginning of the year so you can try to iron out any differences in schedules and habits before a conflict occurs.  That will not prevent you from ever having a disagreement, but if you are both calm, considerate, and honest about your needs, you will be able to deal with any new problems if/when they arise.

One of the biggest issues with a room is cleaning.  Depending on the type of room you have or how inherently messy you are, you and your roommate may not have to do anything.  But if cleaning needs to get done, divvy up the responsibilities.  One of you can vacuum, and the other can dust.  If that is not possible, you can clean one time, and he/she can clean up the next time.  This also applies to the bathroom.  You may be sharing a bathroom with many other people, but you should clean up your own messes for your roommate and hallmates’ consideration.  If the bathroom just gets so dirty that you need to have a heavy-duty cleaning session, again, just divide up the responsibilities.

Every so often, you might get unlucky and get a truly unreasonable roommate.  Such a person will be totally inconsiderate about your needs, and no matter what you do, you cannot see eye to eye.  Such things can either be because of your roommate’s personal problems or because of completely conflicting personalities.  In such circumstances, you should talk with your residential advisor for help.  He/she will try to give you advice on what to do and will mediate if you cannot handle things on your own.  If you are still at an impasse, you can always talk with your resident advisor about getting a new roommate.  If you are that frustrated, chances are that your roommate is too and will be happy to move.  Yes, you will have to figure out who gets to stay in your room and who has to leave.  Still, it will still be a better situation than staying and continuing to argue.  This is, as they say, the exception that proves the rule, so you should be able to handle most situations by being reasonable and sincere.  But do not feel uncomfortable to ask for help if compromise is just impossible.

Photo credit: Tulane University PR: CC

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