honest advice from honestly nice people
By Maggie Malone
Hey Class of 2020!
Much like finals week and dining hall food, living with other humans is part of the college experience, whether you choose to live with your best friend or go potluck. As an upcoming senior who has lived with any number of roommates between none and twelve, you could say I’ve done my time.
Despite how movies portrayed college, dorms, and roommates, keep in mind that there are good roommates, and there are bad roommates. I’ve had both. Not all roommate stories are going to be the same, so expect nothing when you move in.
But I do have a few lessons to share with you, things I’ve learned about the art form of living with another person in a small space.
1. People are different.
This one is a given. Your roomie isn’t going to be exactly like you. The stranger you’re matched with may come from a completely different background with other interests. Even if you know your roommate, you may find out a lot more about them from being around them in close quarters.
2. Personal space is important.
Especially if you’re an introvert, like me! I actually need to have some private space to myself to recharge, or I get really cranky. And a cranky Maggie is never a good thing. Make sure you give yourself some personal space, whether it’s your own room or area, and don’t be afraid to spend some time alone, whether in your room or walking around outside (I recommend both). It does the soul good.
3. So is communication.
This one’s the most important, so pay attention. Always, always, always keep open communication with your roommate. Don’t just leave passive aggressive post it notes all over the place. Actually talk with them. Tell them what you’re thinking, especially if you need them to do something, or if something’s bothering you. They might not like it at first, but they may know how to help or change the situation. I’ve learned this one the hard way. Talking to people is hard (says the journalism major), but I cannot stress enough how important actively communicating with your roommate is. Even if it means swallowing your pride a little.
4. Learn and respect their habits and quirks.
My sophomore year, I lived with an extrovert who would get up super early and study in the morning. I, the mega introvert over here, prefer to study late into the night. (For example, I’m writing this at 3 in the morning.) We learned very quickly when to use or turn off the blinding overhead lights in our cozy dorm room, and when it was time to study in a different area. If your roommate goes to bed earlier, don’t bring people into your room. If a messy area stresses them out, keep your stuff in order. It may not be the most comfortable thing to do, but your roommate will really appreciate it.
5. You won't always click with your roommate.
Remember the part where I told you that I lived with twelve roommates. Scroll back up if you need to. I’ll wait.
With thirteen girls in an itty bitty flat, we learned pretty quickly who we clicked with the best, and which personalities would rub us the wrong way. And let’s face it, while we all tried our hardest to keep drama at bay, by the end of our semester, conflict happened. None of my roommates / housemates were bad, but sometimes, everything someone else would do would step on every last nerve I had. The personal space makes a return here, because when there’s nasty words and the stink eye all over the house, sometimes you need to take a break.
And that’s okay. You aren’t expected to spend all your time with your roommate, and if your personalities don’t click, that’s perfectly fine. Just do the best you can, and if you need help, ask your CL (the nice upperclassman who lives on your hall)! They’re here to help!
6. But try to spend time with them.
While this may be harder to do if your personalities clash, give it a try! Go get coffee or dinner with your roomie, or maybe have a movie night. Take some time to get to know them. You may just meet your new best friend, or find a great accountability partner, or at the very least someone whose company you really enjoy.
I know this is a lot to take in, and reading this may not have eased your nerves at all, but you know what?
Everything is going to be okay.
Meeting a bunch of new people can be hard. Living with them can be even harder. But college is an adventure, a journey, or if you’re feeling really epic, a quest (The Quest for the Degree doesn’t really sound like an interesting title, though. Maybe you can think of a better one.) Bunking with others is just a step. And who knows? You may find some fellow adventure buddies along the way.