Roommates really shape your collegiate experience — they are the first person you see in the morning and the last you see at night. For the first couple weeks of your freshman year, roommates are the people that you rant to about how your 8 a.m. classes are brutal and the people that you end up finding your way through that first year with. In the best situations, roommates provide that home-away-from-home feeling and can help you expand your social circles.
My experience with roommates has been, for the most part, a positive one. It’s interesting how many relationships can sprout from a single person. If it hadn’t been for my freshman year roommate, I wouldn’t have met any of my current roommates. There have been hiccups in my four years — in my first year on campus, my roommate transferred, leaving me scrambling to find a person for the fall of my sophomore year. But through that scramble, I was able to find one of my four current roommates and a very dear friend.
That’s the key thing about living with a different person than yourself. Sure, you want to find someone with similar interests as you, but you also want to find someone who can introduce you to new people who share differing interests, beliefs and backgrounds than you. For myself, this has been the way I’ve found people who I consider lifelong friends.
I believe the key to maintaining a healthy relationship with your roommates is to ensure that you both continue to challenge each other throughout your four years. College is a time to broaden your horizons and try new things that your campus and the surrounding community have to offer. Having someone to push you to try that new restaurant or to join that club makes the experience that much more enjoyable once you are a senior looking back.
Living with the same person can be similar to living with your family — sometimes people get on your nerves and little problems, like unwashed dishes, can bring you to your boiling point. Long nights studying, practicing or attending clubs can leave you stressed, so when you walk in and see a pile of dirty clothes or dishes, that could be a tipping point.
In these situations, I personally have found it useful to make sure that I am taking time to relax or let go of certain things before I bring them up with my roommate. Sometimes we get lazy, we’re tired or we are just having a rough day. All of these things can dictate whether or not small chore-like tasks get done in the dorm or house. Approaching people in a way that benefits their communication style opens up avenues that might not have been seen before. You’d be surprised how much better a conversation can go if you take the time out to calm yourself before letting it all out on your roommate for a simple fix like dirty dishes or clothes.
There is so much pressure in becoming best friends with your roommate right off the bat. I know going into my first year, my older friends or those who had already been at school for orientation seemed as though they were automatically attached at the hip with their roommates.
My suggestion to people going into the whole roommate adventure is to go in with a clear mind and to not have any expectations for it. Let the relationship grow organically and be open to the possibility that it might not work out. Opening yourself up to a new person who’s going to be with you almost every minute of every day is scary, but going in with an open mind and heart and always keeping safe boundaries for yourself to grow will make the experience that much sweeter.