College is an exciting time, you are learning, you are meeting new people and, for some of us, that means sharing our space with a roommate. While some of us are used to living in close quarters with other people, for others this may be the first time having a roommate. While single rooms may be coveted space, consider the following tips for sharing space with roommates.
Determine your expectations
Think about the things that make you successful in your current living situation. Once you have an idea of the types of things that you need out of a living situation arrange them by necessity. Perhaps you require a certain amount of sleep per night, or you prefer to shower first thing in the morning—which is more important? If you can’t function without a full 8 hours put that at the top of your list, if you think you can manage to shower when you have some free time push that a little farther down the list. Remember, some things that you do every day without a roommate may not work when you are living with others. Be prepared for a little give and take, but know that there is also a time to be firm. Tangibly listing your expectations will better prepare you for sharing your space.
When we want to know all about the 12th president of the United States, or how to manage an unruly group of tigers we can often find out information at the tips of our fingers. However, this does not hold true for learning about your new roommate. Social media is a great tool for keeping up with people you already know but a terrible tool for learning about new people. Social media provides snapshots of brief moments in a persons life, it does not give the whole picture. Keep your social media stalking to a minimum; instead send an email, text, or pick up the phone and call your new roommate. You will discover much more through communication and interaction than you ever could browsing through their profile.
This can be awkward but it is so necessary to set clear and reasonable boundaries with your new living partner. Hate falling asleep to music? Tell your roommate that you need quiet at the end of the night and ask if he or she would mind wearing headphones. Uncomfortable with late night guests? Make it known from the beginning of your relationship. When you do not speak up, the small things that bother you will fester until they seem insurmountable. Setting clear rules, and periodically revisiting those rules, for all the people in your space will make for a much more comfortable environment. That being said, be prepared to…
As a roommate, you come with a lifetime of habits and quirks that make you who you are. Every additional person in your space comes with their own unique qualities. With so many habits and preferences swirling around in the same space it is inevitable that there will be some conflicts. Be prepared to compromise on some of the aspects that you want and expect that your roommate will do the same. Think about some of the things on your list of expectations for roommates. Some things—like having romantic overnight guests, or wearing shoes on your bed—may be nonnegotiable, but others may require some compromise. If your roommate requires silence while studying and you need music, consider investing in some headphones. If you both require use of the bathroom at the same time, be prepared to schedule time. Living with another person is an exercise in compromise, you will both (or all) give a little but get a lot out of the relationship if you are willing.
Talk about things that interest you
So far we have touched upon some of the more complex negotiations that occur when people begin sharing space. Once you have set your boundaries, take some time to get to know your roommate(s). Talk about the things that you like; the things that you are passionate about. Excitement and positive energy breed excitement and positive energy. When my college roommate shared a snack that she loved, I didn’t like it, but whenever I saw the snack on sale I remembered to tell her about it. Talking about your interests is an easy way to start to get to know one another, even if your interests aren’t shared, passion and excitement can be contagious.
Despite your best intentions and your thorough communications there are bound to be some issues. Remember, your roommate comes with their own habits, just like you. If your roommate leaves dishes in the sink or eats all your snacks, s/he isn’t likely doing so to be difficult and make you angry. It is far more likely that s/he was in a hurry or forgot who bought the snacks. Consider your perspective—it is far more constructive to assume good will than to assume malicious intent. If you start with an assumption of benevolence you are more likely to be able to have a calm discussion rather than an argument. Try to think the best but remember…
You don’t have to be best friends.
It would be amazing if you and your first roommate(s) became close friends. It would certainly be easier to communicate and negotiate with someone you care about. While some people form lifelong bonds with their assigned roommates, that is the exception, not the rule. You will meet a lot of people, and some may end up being your roommate in the future. Try not to put too much pressure on your relationship with your roommate(s). While you do need to respect one another, and each of your individual space, you do not need to be best friends. Be friendly, if true friendship forms that’s great, if not, that’s OK too.