Coming to college often means also having college roommates. If you’re lucky, you already know them, but if not, then you will be randomly assigned them. We all hope that they will be our first friends in college, the people we enjoy coming home to, our friends we keep for the rest of our lives. When I came to college, I heard the phrase, “college isn’t where you meet your husband, it’s where you will meet your bridesmaids.” Wishful thinking, I suppose, but nonetheless, this is what I hoped for. I have had some success, they haven’t become my bridesmaids, yet, but I have had positive and negative experiences. How do you navigate living with people you don’t know? What do you do if you don’t agree on everything but will be living together despite this? Here are a few problems you might deal with and how to navigate living with new people:
Alright, so maybe you could call me a clean freak, but was it really too much to ask for the kitchen, living room, and bathroom to be cleaned at least once a week? I mean, we were four adults living together, so things could get messy from time to time. The only issue was being the only one bothering to clean the mess. In times like this, it is best for you and your roommate(s) to set forth your expectations of “clean”. How often should the toilets be cleaned? How often do you want the floors swept? What about dusting? Discuss this early on so that you can come to a compromise. Plus, not discussing it at all could lead to one person doing all of the cleaning–not fair. If you both have different, or opposite, expectations come to a compromise and ensure you are both doing your part.
I’m sure we’ve all had that roommate. You know the one–they ask once for some of your chips and suddenly think that invites them to eat your entire stock of food. This is another ground rule that needs to be established early on. Are you going to share food? Or will it be by asking only? Or, maybe, avoid all trouble and just buy your own stuff. I find the latter to be most effective because it eliminates all potential problems when you don’t know the person. The same goes for other belongings as well, whether its a sweater or a stapler, ask (every time) or decide it best not to share at all.
3. Address problems when they arise
Confrontation can be difficult when it is someone you don’t know or have only just met, but ignoring a problem will only lead to it getting worse or lead to further irritation. If you notice that they are not helping with cleaning, politely tell them that it feels like you are doing a lot of the cleaning and you would like your college roommates to try rotating the cleaning back and forth. If they are eating all of your food, tell them that you spend a lot of money on groceries and you would prefer if they ask. Address it as it comes, if you let it build, you may end up with a lot of problems at once and it could come off like you are attacking them.
4. Be respectful
It is also on you to be conscious of yourself. Ask, are you the roommate who is being disrespectful? Make sure you are doing your part to keep your space clean. Don’t just assume they would be okay with you eating some of their food. Ask if you need to borrow a sweater. You are just as responsible as they are and while you may be irritated with something they are doing, it is just as likely that they don’t like something you are doing.
5. Involve them
When you first move in, attempt to involve them in conversation, a movie night, or order some take-out together. I’m not saying your college roommates are going to be your friend right away; but since you will be living together, it would be beneficial to attempt at establishing a relationship where you are comfortable coming home and being around them. Besides, you never know if they will end up being a good friend in the future. Do not immediately write them off as someone you just live with because you have to.
6. Layout the basics
If you are living in a dorm, this will be laid out in your roommate and suitemate contracts. However, if you are living in an apartment, you will have to do this yourselves. Decide on a cleaning schedule, expectations for visitors, sharing food and clothes, study habits, and sleep schedules. This isn’t about conforming to their sleep schedule or making sure that you’re gone when they have visitors. Figure out what you would be comfortable with these situations. For example, visitors are allowed if told in advance and as long as they don’t stay the night. One of you is a night owl and the other is a morning person, that doesn’t mean you start going to be early to conform, simply just be respectful of when they’re sleeping–keep the lights dim and be quieter.
Communication is key–if you can’t tell. However, this tip involves communication about visitors. If one of you is dating someone, decide how you feel about them coming over or staying the night. If the other likes having people over and hanging out, decide how often you are both okay with having people over and how late. Vice versa, be sure to communicate about your own visitors. I remember times when I would come back to the dorm and there would be six people visiting our tiny dorm, and some of them were in my space, but I wasn’t even told they would be coming over. I didn’t mind visitors or people staying the night, but I did prefer to know so that I could be prepared or make plans of my own so they could have their privacy. It’s just common courtesy. You’re living with another person, this is their space too and you need to be considerate.
8. Don’t expect to be best friends, but always be kind
Okay, so you’re a couple months in and your college roommate is IT major, enjoys heavy metal, is super antisocial, and hates art. You’re into country music, an art major, and involved in three organizations. Perfect, you’re totally different people, nothing wrong with that–maybe you won’t be friends when the year is over. There is nothing wrong with that, but never be disrespectful because you don’t see eye-to-eye or because you are very different people. This is college, and part of having college roommates is knowing that there are going to be a lot of people different from you. In regards to your roommate, don’t make their experience miserable just because you don’t share the same views. Be kind, be considerate, be conscious.