Fear and Loathing and the College Roommate

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Your freshman year in college starts soon. New school. New home. New college roommate. If the thought of living with someone you don’t know seems uncomfortable, creepy even, you’re not alone.  I’ll bet your future college roommate feels the same way!

Whether you utilize your college’s “roommate finder” resource or decide to room with a high school friend, sharing living space with another person can get complicated. With a roommate, you will have to navigate a new type of relationship without your parents serving as referee. If you’re dreading the experience, I suggest you switch your way of thinking from fear and loathing to wonder and anticipation. You never know what you might learn about your new roommate and about yourself.

Here are a couple of tips to help you navigate the journey.

Communicate

Effective communication skills will serve you throughout your adult life and in all your adult relationships. Before school starts, contact your new roommate and communicate basic information: Are you a late riser or an early riser? Do you have the TV or music on during study time? Do you fall asleep with the TV or music on? Will you have visitors during the week? What does “party” mean to you? Do you want to decorate the room together? What are you bringing and what will I bring?

Once school begins, if something is bothering you, don’t stew and let issues become bigger than they need to be. Rather, discuss any problems with your roommate when you are in a calm mood. Remember to use your “I” statements: “I’d prefer…., I feel hurt when…., I don’t understand…”.  “I” statements express your point of view rather than an accusatory point of view.  This can be challenging, but it usually works over time.

Empathy

As a roommate, you are entering into a relationship with another person. Relationships have two sides, not just yours. Always keep in mind that you are not the only person in that tiny dorm room. You are not the only person missing home and friends. You are not the only person stressed out by so many papers and finals. Get to know your roommate and try to understand his/her point of view, especially if s/he’s different than you.

Kindness

Assume the best, not the worst, in your roommate. If something happens that bothers you, assume your roommate didn’t intend to hurt you and communicate your feelings and preferences. Don’t you hope your roommate thinks the best of you?

Tolerance

It’s important that you learn to tolerate differences. You’ll be practicing tolerance the rest of your life at work and in your other relationships (just ask your parents!) Also, keep in mind that your roommate must tolerate your way of doing things as well. During the next four years, you will change and grow intellectually, socially, emotionally, and psychologically in ways that now you can’t quite conceive of. The freedom to choose your own schedule and set your own rules will allow you to begin to define who you’ll be as an independent adult. While you may describe yourself one way today, by the end of even your freshman year you may be emerging as a whole new you.

Get Help When You Need It

Your college orientation program should have some great advice on establishing positive roommate experiences. The Residence Life Staff are experts in this area!  They’ve been trained specifically to help students handle challenges and conflicts among roommates.  You don’t have to wait until you have a crisis on your hands.  Chat with your Resident Assistant (RA), who is usually an upperclass student.  Your Hall Director is a pro at coaching you through these very common problems, even when they seem very uncommon to you.

More Options

So, if you are matched with a roommate who isn’t like you, relax! Maybe s/he’s more like the emerging “you” than you thought.   Want to know more?  Check out our “Transitions to College” workshops held in the Chicago area this summer.  Teresa will be one of our presenters.

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