College Freshman Survival Guide (Part 2 – How To Get Along With Your Roommate) – So about that whole sharing a room the size of a jail cell thing…

25 Jul

This is part two of a multipart series on getting ready for freshman year of college.

Living with other people can be difficult especially if you are an only child (like me) or just happened to have your own room back home. You and your roommate(s) could be from very different backgrounds and ideals, be open, college is all about new experiences. Be upfront about your expectations for the room and the semester overall. Set boundaries, and stick with them, don’t be a push over. But don’t be so steadfast that you can’t compromise. You can’t ask them to change if you are not willing to either. Having a roommate will certainly present challenges; however, it can also be a highlight of your college experience.

Just about every possible problem stems from poor communication. First and foremost, when you find out who your roommate(s) is, Facebook or text them (most schools post phone numbers) just dropping a quick “hey, we are going to be roommates, when is a good time to talk” shows you care to get to know them, but understand everyone is busy in the summer. Don’t let too much time pass though (more than a week) there are important items to talk about (mentioned later in this post). Most items to be talked about will happen when you finally meet and are moved into your dorm, but one conversation can start now: Who is bringing what? Will you want a TV in your room? Movie collections? Extra seating? Video game systems? Oh and girls, even if you have old school N64, like me, bring it to school, you will instantly make some friends on your floor. After going over those topics, keep in touch as the summer winds down, updating on what you bought so far for the room.

Okay, so now you have moved into your dorm, using your trusty saran wrap of course, your parents have left and now it’s just you and your roommate(s) sitting in your room that will probably never be this organized ever again. What do you do? Lay down the ground rules of course!

Start off with the easy question: Night Owl or Early Riser– This answer will determine much of how your morning and night routine will go. If you happen to have a suite with a shared bathroom this question will help you figure out when to get a shower and where you can get ready; you can’t hog the bathroom to get ready if your roommate needs to shower too. Be courteous of their sleeping habits. If you are a night owl and your roommate is not, invest in a good desk light as mentioned in my first blog so you can both do what you need to. Or go to a study lounge or common area and work and come back when you are ready for bed (quietly). If you are a morning person, please be courteous of your roommate who likes to sleep in, grab all your stuff in one shot and take it out of the room, so you don’t keep opening and closing the door and blinding them with light.

You are at college to learn after all, well kinda. Some people need complete silence to study, others, like me, need music to concentrate. No matter what end you are on, you need to be respecting of your roommate’s study habits. Also, some students like to study between or right after class, others later in the day and into the night. This branches back to the night owl or early riser conversation, be considerate. If you have very different study regimens figure out who can study in the room or maybe prefer the library silence.

Sharing is Caring, but not always. Bringing a TV or extra chairs for your room is screaming “I am shared!” so just make sure you lay down the law of what can be shared and what can’t. Will some food or general household items (such as toilet paper) be shared? Respect eachother’s privacy and personal space, make a clear delineation between your stuff and theirs, or at least as much as you can. Always ask before borrowing, ALWAYS. There should be no problems if you let your roommate(s) know what’s off limits at the beginning; such as your computer, favorite article of clothing, oh and your boy/girlfriend.

Speaking of a boyfriend or girlfriend, they will probably want to come and visit you, or maybe you just have awesome friends who want to crash one weekend. Either way, you need to talk about the overnight guest policy of your room. Some key questions are: how much notice must be given; school vs weekend night; how many days in a row; and what is the roommate supposed to do when you have people over. The last is probably the most important; you CANNOT have hookups while your roommate is in the room! I don’t care how ‘deep of a sleeper’ they are or if they are ‘passed out’, it is the most awkward thing ever to wake up to that in your room. Also, lay down the law against ‘shady friends’, if you are not comfortable with them being in your room, tell your roommate nicely, propose maybe they hang somewhere else, maybe their place if they are a fellow student.

Water Pong, Fun For All Ages

College is where you are finally free to go out and stay out as late as you want, you finally have independence; or at least that is how I felt, finally shedding that midnight curfew, yes it was terrible. Whether it is a frat party or a house party or even having some people over in your dorm, you will end up partying at some point. Now before I go any further, I am not condoning underage drinking, nor am I condoning drinking in your dorm; it will end very badly if you get caught.  But I feel the approach of giving the knowledge to make your own decisions is the best way for you to learn. You can have ‘parties’ in your dorm by playing games or having a dance party, it’s all relative. Also, you can go to parties and not drink, that’s completely fine, but if you plan on it, please keep checking back for my post dedicated to partying safely. If your roommate decides they want to go out to parties there are some ground rules that should be set. The Buddy System, maybe go with them and you two (or a group from your dorm floor) can keep an eye out for each other and you will have a walk home buddy. If you don’t want to go out with them make sure you don’t lock them out of the room or set up a time that if they are later than that they need to find somewhere else to crash.

Once you have made a solid base for your roommateship spend time with them. You may be instant friends, or you may not, but there has to be a general level of camaraderie. Get to know your roommate, talk about classes, eat dinner together, watch a movie, etc; but don’t be overly or fakely interested, it will make it worse. Having an open channel of communication will be key if a problem arises. Hmmm that sounds vaguely familiar…

This is more general safety, but make sure you lock the door and windows, this may not seem entirely relevant to the roommate dynamic, but if your roommate’s laptop gets stolen on your “5 second run down the hall” you will feel terrible; or think of how mad you would be if it was reversed.

The cliché is true, the bottom line is communication.  You may think it’s weird to start talking about this with essentially a stranger, but come Thanksgiving break you will be so happy you did. Although, I will admit, you may get a complete dud of a roommate, it happens, but there is a whole dorm floor where you can find a pseudo-roommate.

Oh and two important side notes: everyone, or at least I do, hate those corny ice breaker games, but suffer for the hopes of meeting some people. Suffer together! Also, you will make mistakes, it’s inevitable; skipping class, getting very drunk, vomiting, and hooking up with someone you immediately regret the morning. See TextsFromLastNight for examples. Every freshman makes at least one mistake, if you are lucky you will learn from the experience. As Adele says “Regrets and mistakes they’re memories made,” college is all about making memories.

In the end, just expect the unexpected. No matter what others tell you about “how college is” your experience will be slightly different, don’t let false expectations let you down, or scare you to death.

Check out Part 3 about classes!

Have any other questions about roommates? Feel free to comment and I will get back to you ASAP. Or follow me on Twitter at SamSepanak1 and I will answer you there, as well.

2 Responses to “College Freshman Survival Guide (Part 2 – How To Get Along With Your Roommate) – So about that whole sharing a room the size of a jail cell thing…”

  1. K. Ranson July 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Its always a blast when awesome friends make a visit, conveniently when your roommate is gone so they can move the room around to try and sleep 8 in 2 twin beds.

  2. sls5517 July 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    ohh good times. good good times…until they started to separate haha thanks for the comment kevin!

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