Guest Post By: Iris Yuan
For many freshmen, college is the first time where they’ll have to live with someone, usually a complete stranger, and peacefully figure out how to share that space. Unlike summer camp roommates or field trips in high school, your roommate in college may have completely different interests than you, or different living habits. He or she may seem like they're from another world, but don't forget that the room is just as much theirs as it is yours. It's a hit-or-miss situation. Your roommate can likely become one of your closest friends, but lack of communication could also lead to resentment. After stalking your future roommate on facebook (undoubtedly), and determining that they're sane, keep in mind the following guidelines.
Start with the most basic requirements of living with someone… not what TV shows they watch, what their favorite band is, what major they're studying, or even their family background. These create differences that you can work with and learn from. But say you're trying to study for a midterm, and your roommate wants to sleep early and can't sleep if even one light is on. From the very beginning, make sure you know and keep in mind your roommate's preferences for: when they sleep, when they wake up, when they study, will they be in the room, how dark or light they want the room, etc. If you are up late in this situation, for example, maybe it's time to hit a study lounge or library.
Also establish cleaning schedules and get used to sharing. If anything, your incentive is financial. Roommates who don’t get along will not share any of their belongings, including bathroom, cleaning, and school supplies. You could also coordinate packing to save space. This way, you could avoid filling up the room with two bottles of shampoo, two mops, two sponges, two printers. Why buy duplicates when you could spend half as much money and share?
No matter what, you’ll have some form of differences or disagreement with your roommate over the course of the year. It could be a small matter, like not taking the garbage out when you're supposed to, or a recurring problem like noise and having too many guests over. Even if the issue is small, it probably won’t stop if it doesn’t get addressed. Avoid the trap of passive-aggression, of complaining about your roommate to your friends but never bringing it up directly with that roommate.
Clear communication is key. Even if you don't become best friends, it's always good to instigate the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. Be polite and courteous. In the end, it is your responsibility to compromise, be fair, and you’ve done your part. Good luck!