The long awaited moment has finally arrived. Hours of planning, shopping, packing and unpacking have finally paid off. You have officially moved into your new home. But now what?
All your books have been purchased, your class schedule is complete and your life as a college student has begun with the kickoff of New Student Orientation. Several new experiences and opportunities await and one of them includes the relationship that will form between you and your roommate.
Whether you personally requested your roommate or were matched with your new roommate, there are key ingredients to a successful roommate relationship. Below, please find a few tips that aim to help you in this new experience.
#1 - Get to Know Your Roommate Early
The first few weeks of any semester can often appear overwhelming. As a student you receive your syllabi from professors and begin venturing to your campus library to work on your academic assignments. You might become involved with an athletic team or campus clubs and organizations. Yet because of such involvement, you and your roommate might not be able to hang out or touch base. On the other hand, based on your class schedule and involvement you might be with your roommate quite regularly. Ultimately, no matter what the case, it pays to get to know your roommate early. You can begin to understand and appreciate who the person truly is, what they believe in and what they value. A solid foundation of understanding leads to respect for each other and a relationship/friendship that can easily grow.
Examples of ways that you can get to know your roommate might include: attending an event sponsored by A.C.E. (the Association for Campus Events), going off campus to eat or see a movie together, setting a daily or weekly time to have a meal together, competing against each other in a sport or video game or by simply setting aside a minimum of 10 minutes at the end of the day to engage in a conversation. By doing things together you will begin to appreciate and learn more about each other.
#2 - Make a Genuine Effort
Individual personalities and backgrounds are the key ingredients in the diversity that is expressed in a floor community and more specifically a particular room or apartment. Because of such ingredients, individuals will express themselves differently. Some students might be quiet and rely more on body language, while others can be the exact opposite and rely heavily on verbal communication. The key is making an effort to engage in both a respectful relationship with each other as well as a respectful sense of communication with each other. Basically, be good to yourself and each other.
Being best friends isn't the main ingredient in having a successful roommate relationship. Rather, making a genuine effort to be respectful and communicate along with starting to become aware of your overall demeanor and how you communicate is crucial to success.
#3 - Communicate Expectations
Expectations are important to any close relationship. If you think of any other current relationships in your life, you'll soon realize that expectations are the driving force behind the relations you have with those individuals. Yet expectations can at times be challenging. Unfortunately, there are times when both individuals in a relationship are unaware of the expectation along with the hurt or frustration that is caused when an expectation isn't lived up to. Therefore, in order to avoid hurt and frustration or in order to just avoid general misunderstanding, it is important to carefully communicate what your expectations of another individual are and to be fair when doing so.
Think of the last time you went driving somewhere and you were relying on the person riding shotgun to provide you with the directions to reach your destination. If the individual was unclear or made an assumption that you already knew where you were going, chances are the trip was unsuccessful. The same situation between roommates can unfold if communication isn't expressed clearly or in a fair give and take fashion. The smallest of unvoiced concerns can lead to major potholes down the road.
Here are some topics for consideration early on in the roommate relationship. They include:
- How you like to spend your personal time
- Study habits
- Sleep schedule
- Items to share
- Items for personal use only
#4 - Be Assertive
When it comes to communication, the manner in which you express yourself is very important to helping you achieve the success you are looking for. Without even realizing it, one's tone of voice can be construed as disrespectful or condescending. The way in which our opinions are expressed can come off as an unwarranted attack rather than a sincere attempt at constructive feedback. There are also times when our frustration begins to come across in what one is trying to say. So how can you express what you are feeling without hurting your roommate?
First, always remember that it's OK to feel a certain way about a situation. However, problems can arise when we attack the person by using accusing statements, such as "you constantly use my computer without asking," or "I can't believe you didn't tell me that John called." Do your best to avoid these types of "you" statements. Instead simply explain how actions make you feel. For example, "I'm upset that my computer was used without my permission. In the future, could you please ask me before using it."
Second, it might be important for one to communicate the consequences of another individual's actions. Such an example might be, "I'm really angry over the fact that I am not receiving messages from people who have called. One of the messages was really important and by not receiving it, I missed an assignment. In the future, could you please write down my messages for me when someone calls."Third, revisit previously agreed upon expectations. Over a short period of time, you might change your opinion on something that was previously talked about like items that you were going to share. If you have changed your mind, then bring it to your roommate's attention.
Finally, when being assertive, always remember that timing
is everything. If your roommate is upset about a test he/she just
failed, it's not a good time to discuss something that is bothering you.
It is also unwise to discuss a concern right after it happens,
especially if you are extremely upset about it. Rather, wait until you
have given yourself a time period to cool down. By avoiding a time
period when either individual is more sensitive for reasons beyond their
control, you begin to build a relationship that is built on honest
communication that benefits both individuals in the roommate
#5 - Be Flexible and Open-Minded
One of the fascinating aspects of college is the chance to meet so many new and different people. From your professors to your closest friends, you will encounter so many different individuals. These individuals will have various likes and dislikes, views, opinions and values. Some of these you will agree with and pride yourself on. There also will be times in which you are left in disbelief or strongly oppose or question another's views. That is why it is so important when interacting with others to do your best to be flexible, truly hearing both sides of the story while keeping an open-mind to another individual's perspective. Don't misunderstand this point either, interpreting it as if you have to agree with another's perspective to keep the peace. Instead, continue to remind yourself that you are in college for the purpose of challenging yourself to learn and grow with a new experience both inside and outside of the classroom.
As a resident student, an aspect of this learning experience does indeed include living with a roommate. As the year progresses, even if you and your roommate don't end up as best friends, that's ok. Individuals might prefer to spend their down time with individuals on the floor, in the building or on campus who they might have more in common with. Ultimately, the key is treating each other with respect and doing your best to follow the tips above. If these tips don't appear to help, touch base with a residence life staff member from your floor or building. An outside perspective from a staff member might be able to bring the clarity and understanding to an issue that you and your roommate are looking for.Best wishes for a fun, positive and personally rewarding academic year!