As we come to the middle of the semester, you’ll probably find that you’ve adjusted to life away from home and the familiar. I hope that it’s become easier to get yourself to class each day, practice study skills and make friends, but if not, never fear! There is still plenty
of time to find your way.
For many people, one of the hardest aspects of moving to college is the part where they have to share a room with a stranger. It can be difficult to work out the ins and outs of sharing a tiny room with another person, especially if you have always had your own room at home. And while it’s good to have at least a decent working relationship with your new acquaintance, you’re definitely not required to become best friends.
It’s likely that at some point during your time together, no matter whether you’re close friends or civil acquaintances with your roommate, you will need some time apart—and it’s always a good idea to give your roommate some space, too. Pack up your backpack for a couple hours each week when you know the other person will be in the room and make your study station (or gaming station, or Netflix station) portable.
On that note, there’s also no shame in requesting that your roommate return the favor. Even if it doesn't come up at the beginning of the semester, and even if you both agree that it’ll never become an issue, it’s still a good policy to have in place—at the very least, you’ll have opened the door for neutral communication about your needs.
Everybody wants a little space now and then just to chill, and having a regular schedule for it will keep your relationship from dying a slow death from passive-aggression and bottled-up frustration.
If you’re comfortable, consider sharing major health issues you might have with your roommate, especially if they’re likely to come up during the course of the year. Telling your bunk-mate that you have a life-threatening peanut allergy will keep them from potentially endangering your life, and alerting them that you’ve had seizures in the past will prompt them to research how to care for someone who’s experiencing one. You certainly don’t have to disclose any info you don’t want to, but it could help you both out and lift a little pressure off your own shoulders.
If you find yourself rooming with someone you knew back in high school, you may discover that living with a close friend right off the bat isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
One of my older friends moved to college with a buddy from high school and, while they were best friends at home, they found that their study habits, sleeping patterns, cleaning preferences and general attitudes towards the college experience were vastly different. Their friendship disintegrated and by the end of their freshman year, they were no more than civil to each other.
Before you commit to life with your bestie in a cramped 12x19-foot space, make a list of your habits and pet peeves and have your potential roommate do the same. Compare and contrast, and if there are marked differences, find a way to compromise, decide that it won’t be such a big deal or just decide not to live together.
You don’t want to risk having a strong friendship dissolve over a molehill becoming a mountain—your friend’s quirky love of listening to polka music and practicing her triple steps at all hours of the night is adorable when you’re not living together, but I guarantee that it will get frustrating when it wakes you up at 4:30 in the morning.
No matter whether you’ve known your roommate since kindergarten or met on move-in day, a good strategy for maintaining a decent relationship is setting up parameters for what you can tolerate and what is allowed in your room—and put this in writing! My school required all freshmen to fill out a roommate agreement with our bunkmates and turn it in to our resident advisers, so that if a problem came up, we would have documentation of our rules.
Whether or not you end up absolutely loving your roommate, I hope that you both find ways to adjust to being in college and that you are able to lean on each other during your first year. Remember that it’s never too late to put some of these strategies to work!
What are your tried-and-true ways to deal with or avoid roommate conflicts? What was your relationship with your freshman roommate like?