Adapting to living with another person (or three) can be one of the most trying parts of freshman year. Unfortunately, unless you have unnatural sway over the housing department, it will be a full year until you can run to the safe havens of North Avenue or West Campus apartments. During the interim we suggest a few rules for surviving the trauma of living within ten feet of another stressed out 18-year-old.
First, maximize the space you are given. Every square foot of extra space between you and your roommate’s shoes will be well worth the extra effort it will take to re-arrange your room during the first week. If you can stand the height, try lofting your bed and utilize our dear neighbors to the north, IKEA, for any furniture or storage needs not fulfilled by housing.
Once you have your room arranged, set ground rules. As awkward as it might be to explain to someone you barely know that you really aren’t OK with their girlfriend sleeping over, it will be even more awkward if you wait to do it after said girlfriend has already stored a spare toothbrush on your roommate’s dresser.
If memory serves, your PL will be handing out roommate contracts. It is a corny ritual, but still well worth the hour spent explaining your preferences about cleaning and visitors. It is useful for reference later if you ever do have a complaint with your roommate, and can help you get to know your roommate(s) a bit better.
Unfortunately, it is not the big things about most rooming situations that make them go sour. The small things will get to you over time. Sleep schedules, snooze buttons, tidiness and even wall-art can become subtle points of tension that drive roommates to their breaking points.
While in some cases conflict is inevitable you can avoid the worst of these miniscule yet immensely annoying roommate situations.
While laptops are not that bright, and headphones are a gift from above, light sleepers can find even those necessary studying aides annoying. Use your dorm’s study lounge or the library for late night study sessions to give your roommate a peaceful slumber.
Early risers, return the courtesy by not waking your roommate in the mornings. Snooze buttons might be great for you, but avoid the temptation to set your alarm an hour earlier than you need to. Just because you can fall back asleep for five minutes and feel refreshed does not mean your roommate can.
Wake up at the first ring, and turn your alarm off as quickly as possible. Girls, if you must blow dry your hair in the mornings, do so in the bathroom to avoid excess noise. All communal bathrooms are equipped with outlets for just such morning rituals.
Everything your mother taught you about tidiness is nice. Making your bed is an excellent gesture, but really, kind of unneeded. Laundry, on the other hand, is a must. Your clothes smell-up the entire room, not just your half, so please keep the dirties to a minimum, and anything truly foul, deal with quickly.
Food shouldn’t hang out in the room for more than 24 hours, unless its in very good storage, and any liquids of any kind should be cleaned up immediately post-spill. Food is in fact, one of the trickiest areas. Dorms are made for many activities, namely sleeping, homework and messing around on computers.
Dorms are not made for preparing or consuming five-star meals, especially not five-star meals that have any intense odors. The community kitchens were built for cooking in, and the common areas are much better dining rooms than your bed, or perched awkwardly on your pseudo-rocking chair.
As for wall art and music preferences, first and foremost, be accepting. If your roommate puts up something you find offensive, try to understand it, and if you can’t, try to ignore it.
If there is something in your room, or something going on that you feel is too offensive to tolerate, talk to your roommate or your PL. Make sure your roommate understands that you have a problem. Many people won’t realize your upset unless you mention it.
If a conflict does happen, as it often will, try to be reasonable. Bring in an outside mediator (again, we recommend PLs or housing advisors) and explain the situation.