One of the most nerve-wracking aspects of college life is the idea of sharing one’s space with someone else, possibly with a complete stranger. Students inevitably wonder whether they will get along with their roommate and whether their wants, needs, and comforts will still be honored in dorm life.
Photo: Emily Rose Thorne
Luckily, it’s more than possible to make these somewhat cramped living conditions not only bearable, but harmonious, fun, and positive for everyone involved. As is the case in most situations, communication and mutual respect will get you far.
Set some “ground rules” that suit everyone.
For example, if your roommate likes to spend every weekend night at parties and bring home overnight guests, but you prefer to study during the evenings and go to bed early, try to make arrangements that will allow both of you to make the most of your college experience. Suggest that your roommate give you a “heads-up” if they plan to bring guests into the room so that you can leave and ask that they limit the frequency of bringing people over.
Keep your space clean.
Nobody likes a roommate who doesn’t wash their dishes, take their trash out, make their bed, or tidy up their desk when mountains of papers, books, and pens start to accumulate. If you keep your area of the room clean, your roommate will be glad that you respect the mutual space and will likely follow suit. If your roommate doesn’t do their part, consider talking to them about it: a dirty living space will not only contribute to negativity in the dorm and potential animosity between roommates, but may also evoke the ire of your floor and even your RA.
Be there for them.
If you notice that your roommate seems stressed or upset, offer to talk it through with them. They will likely appreciate your efforts to create a welcoming space and offer a helping hand, and even if they don’t want to talk through their problems with you, they are more likely to feel respected and cared about and will probably remember your compassion as the semester or year goes on.
Photo: Emily Rose Thorne
Learn about them.
To that end, listen if your roommate says that they don’t like to talk about what’s on their mind. Never force them to open up to you; they will if they feel comfortable doing so. It’s also not your fault if they aren’t the kind of person who likes to share their emotions, so don’t blame yourself if your roommate chooses to keep it to themselves.
It’s also important to learn what makes your roommate tick. If they’re not a morning person, but you are, don’t bombard them with questions and jokes as you’re both getting ready for your 8 A.M. each morning. If your roommate wants to go to sleep while you’re studying for your final, either work with just a small light or go to a library, friend’s dorm, or other public space to finish your work so as not to disturb them. It’s important, too, to make sure that your roommate reciprocates the respect that you show for them.
Learning to live with others is one of the most crucial lessons you will learn in college. It’s not hard to make dorm life a positive experience, but it’s equally easy to make it stressful and unpleasant. Communicate with your roommate often, treat them the way you expect them to treat you, and work through any problems that arise as calmly as you can, and you’re sure to have a great year.
Emily Rose is 17 years old and from Athens, Georgia. Beginning in fall 2017, she will attend Mercer University. She plans to double major in Journalism and Political Science and to minor in Global Development Studies. She is a writer, musician, activist, and feminist who hopes to use her platforms to inspire positive change by providing different perspectives on the world’s political and social issues.