One of the first challenges of college is arriving for your first day and getting to meet your roommate for the first time. This is the first of many college adventures to come but it can be a very important one. Learning how to get along with just about anybody is a good talent to acquire, unfortunately there’s quite a few traps and pitfalls too.
I started college right after military service so I had a few extra years under my belt and lots of experience in the Army to help me out. I also had a budget of about zero and had gotten a deal on living in the dorm that I couldn’t pass up. My first roommate was quite a character, just 18, loud, obnoxious, and very outspoken on many subjects that he knew little about.
But I had dealt with a lot worse in the military and so I managed to survive without too much trouble between us. Plus my new friend was often out pursuing other interests so I did get some piece and quiet. And living in the dorm was a lot like living in a barracks but much better in most ways. So unlike some, I was happy to have what I got and didn’t complain.
But there was always some set of roommates at war for one reason or another. Sometimes it would start with pranks and escalate out of control. Sometimes it was just flat out incompatibilities that just wouldn’t go away. I’d have to say the guys did better on resolving differences. If it came to a head and punches were thrown, it was over quickly and soon forgotten. But the girls would be more apt to let things just sizzle and make life miserable for any who got involved. Sorry girls but that’s the way it was in my dorm.
Most new students rarely get to pick their first roommate in college and you usually just have to deal with it for at least one semester. Three and half months may not seem like a long time but it can be under a difficult situation. There are ways to make it better or at least tolerable. Communication is important and so is your method (screaming or yelling is not the best way to communicate). Here’s a quick list of suggestions that helped me out.
Agree to a list of guidelines (rules is not the best term to use). I think the key here is to not make any rules that are unbendable with agreement. In other words allow for some leeway to temporarily change the given rule when necessary. But always make sure you both agree.
Set Quiet or Sleep Hours (I was an early riser, my roommate a late night person). But we still worked it out. My roommate would be quiet late at night and I would be quiet early in the morning. Sometimes we would both go somewhere else during the time period.
Don’t have friends constantly hanging out. This goes especially for boy or girl friends you are dating. Make arrangements to be gone for a few hours with each other if privacy is an issue. But don’t over do it and make your roommate homeless for long periods.
Clean up after yourself. If you make a mess, you clean it up. And don’t wait two days to do it. This is especially true of shared bathrooms and cooking areas. It can get out of hand quick so don’t slack off. And never eat your roommate’s food unless you ask first or it’s agreed up front. I saw a lot of trouble over this issue during my dorm stay.
Don’t borrow things without asking. Some times it’s no big deal but it’s always better to ask. This is another area ripe for trouble and can escalate quickly if it gets out of control. A lot of people are very picky about other people using their stuff, especially items held in high regard.
So those are the guidelines we setup that first week. Oh, and we also agreed to disagree with no hard feelings. That too is a powerful tool in getting along. My first roommate and I actually became pretty good friends after we both moved on to different roommates after our first semester. So you never know and it’s always a good idea to make the best out of your first semester at college.