For many students, college is their first time living with a roommate rather than their parents. When I was a freshman, I was eager to find a roommate who’d become my best friend for life. I looked forward to a year filled with pizza parties, sharing clothes and a shoulder to cry on.
However, roommate situations often turn out to be an awkward, uncomfortable or a downright terrible tale. This is completely understandable. You need time to adjust when you’re living with a stranger who has a different personality.
After living with three extremely different roommates, sharing both a tiny dorm room and a larger apartment, I have found common principles that optimize roommate harmony and keep conflict at bay.
First, don’t break basic societal rules. Nose picking, spitting, burping, chewing with your mouth open and ignoring personal hygiene were not OK when you were 7 years old, and they are not acceptable from a roommate.
Second, “sexile” properly. Establish boundaries and rules about significant others. No one likes to walk into a room to get a textbook and instead gain an eyeful of more than they bargained for. Hang a sign on the door – a sock, a tie, pretty much anything. But please, just give some notice.
Finally, communication is key. Conflict does not have to lead to door-slamming or moving out. If you are studying, for example, and your roommate is playing loud music, speak up immediately. If your roommate’s habit of leaving her hairbrush on the kitchen counter bothers you, tell her. Evil glares or irritated glances alone will not convey the depth of the problem.
Sharing a small space can be difficult, and even a good roommate can begin to get on your last nerve by the conclusion of the year. But many students will at least have found someone with whom they can share their worries and triumphs – a confidante to help them through those swirling college days accompanied by stressful all-nighters.
If not, there is an upside to even the worst of roommate situations. The experience is just another way we prepare ourselves to interact with others in the future. Everyone we come in contact with, whether it be the messy roommate, the noisy part animal, the hoarder, the night owl or even the “sexiler,” can help us learn valuable lessons.
Alyssa Jacobson is a junior majoring in advertising and political science.