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Cope with Roommate Frustration: A Student Story

By Ali Werd

June 05, 2007

Ali is finishing her freshman year at a large state university in the Midwest.

The envelope with my roommate assignment arrived before my high school graduation and suddenly, college was a real thing. When Haley (Ed. note: names have been changed) first called me, she seemed like a nice girl. She was excited for us to be great friends and for all the fun we were going to have. I was happy that she seemed so normal and friendly. When move-in day came, Haley arrived with her family in tow and within an hour, we were waving goodbye to our parents.

The first few hours were great; we unpacked, got to know each other, and discussed what posters we should buy. Soon everyone on our floor was getting ready to go out, and over the course of the night, our group split up and I got back before Haley. So far, so good. Maybe this college thing would not be so hard after all. Of course, this was before I woke up the next morning to find four feet sticking out of her bed.

And so my first college-level challenge had presented itself: How to diplomatically avoid an awkward situation. I gave her the benefit of the doubt after she apologized, but other incidents cropped up over the next few months.

There was the time my phone started ringing at three o’clock in the morning on a Wednesday when Haley locked herself out after she enjoying herself a little too much. There were multiple times when I returned to an unlocked door because the key-and-lock idea had escaped her again. She was also allergic to vacuuming and taking the garbage out. The final straw occurred in February when a pile of her garbage, including pizza boxes, used Kleenex and coffee cups, had accumulated next to our garbage because there wasn’t enough room for them in the actual trash.

It’s hard to find a diplomatic way to deal with a person with whom you’re sharing a small room. It may seem easier to turn a blind eye, but that will only lead to unhappiness. So I have developed a way to approach any situation that may arise between you and your roommate:

  • First, speak up! There is no need to be best friends with your roommate. It’s not a requirement or in the small print at the bottom of your housing contract. You shouldn’t keep quiet about a problem for fear of losing a friend. Keep this in mind when your roomie does something that doesn’t fly with you.
  • Second, it is your room too. I found myself often feeling like I was a guest in Haley’s room. It is not their room that you are borrowing at night; you are paying just as much to live there and should expect to receive the same amount of courtesy that they do.
  • Third, use your resident aid (RA), the upperclassman who lives on your floor. They are there to help! I know it may seem lame to enlist their help, but trust me, it’s worth it. They are trained to deal with these types of situations and will make sure your roommate doesn’t feel alienated. I went to my RA for help and he was able to help me come up with a way to deal with her antics.
  • Fourth and finally, it’s time to enlist the note approach if you find that diplomacy is not getting the message across. Whenever I tried to talk to Haley about her behavior, it usually ended in her changing for a day before returning to her old ways. I found short, to-the-point, but nice and civil notes worked like a charm. With notes, you can avoid saying anything out of anger that you may regret later. You can also take your time to say exactly what you want.

Now that my time living with Haley is almost over, I think that this uncomfortable situation could have been avoided if I had spoken up earlier. I was too worried that Haley and I needed to be friends. Having a roommate lets you get to know someone who is different from you, but there is no rule stating that you have to be their friend.


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