How to Be a Good College Roommate
Adjusting to dorm life can be challenging. For many students, it’s their first time living away from home and sharing such a close space with someone new. Here are tips you can use to be a good roommate, handle common issues and, hopefully, make a new friend.
Tip #1: Keep cultural differences in mind
Because you grew up in different cultures, you and your roommate could have very different definitions of messy, rude or noisy. Or your roommate could seem too curious, friendly or even quiet. Part of our personalities are driven by our upbringing, like how people from the Midwest or the South of the USA tend to be friendlier, while people from the Northeast can be more guarded.
Part of going to college – especially when studying abroad – is meeting different kinds of people and learning how to appreciate them. If you want help understanding what behaviors or personality traits are common in the USA, chat with your Residence Assistant or some friends.
Tip #2: Communicate with each other
A lack of communication is what causes or intensifies many common roommate issues. If you don’t mention that you need quiet to study, your roommate might not realize he’s busy too loud. In general, when moving in with a new roommate – or before, if possible – it helps to discuss each of your preferences and expectations. Setting limits or finding compromises can help, such as deciding together that there will be no loud music after 10pm.
When you do have an issue with your roommate, mention it directly and politely. For instance, “When I’m studying, could you please use headphones to listen to your music?” Or if your roommate has an issue with you, resist the urge to react defensively. Instead, consider what you’d want if you were the other person and discuss things calmly.
Tip #3: Respect boundaries
To help foster the best relationship together, it’s important for you to respect boundaries. In general, it’s better to ask first just in case – don’t just borrow her shirt or play his guitar, even if these are things you’d do without thinking with friends back home.
Another big thing is respecting privacy. Some people share more personal details, some less so. Some people don’t mind if you go through their things or read over their shoulder, while others find it extremely rude. Establishing boundaries – remember that whole communication thing? – is key for a respectful and harmonious roommate relationship.
Tip #4: Manage messiness
If you’re lucky, you and your roommate have the same approach when it closes to clutter. But if one of you needs things to be clean and the other person is messy, then that’s where things can get…well, messy.
If you’re the messy one, talk with your roommate about what would be acceptable. Maybe shoes all around bed is okay, but food left out is not. Remember that even if you see it as “your space,” your actions still impact your roommate. Or if you’re the clean one, explain why the mess impacts you (such as, “all the clutter makes me very stressed out”) and try to find reasonable compromises. Maybe your roommate limits the mess to his or her side, and makes an effort to clean up every week…or two.
Tip #5: Remember that you’re roommates first
Sharing a dorm room can help make the college transition easier. After all, even if you don’t know anyone else yet, you know your roommate, right? Still, don’t feel like you need to be best friends. Maybe you get along well, maybe you don’t. Maybe you two want to hang out together a lot, a little or not at all.
Eventually, you’ll settle into a comfortable routine together. Go ahead, invite your roommate to things you’re doing. Just don’t be offended if he or she says no. And don’t feel pressured to do everything your roommate does, or to accept what your roommate wants whenever you guys disagree. You’re equals, and you both deserve someone who’ll be a good roommate.