Getting to Know You
Flash forward to your first week at college...
10:00 p.m.: You've finished your schoolwork for the evening. You neatly stack your books on your desk, fold and put away clothing, shut off the lights, slip into your neatly made bed, and drift off to sleep.
11:30 p.m.: You're jolted out of your peaceful dream by loud heavy metal and bright lights. Could it be morning already? No such luck. Rather, it seems your party-loving roommate has just arrived home from -- surprise, surprise -- a party (for the sixth night in a row) and is just now starting her homework. You watch in amazement (and frustration) as she simultaneously powers up her computer, dances to the music filling your small room, and discards her clothes and books on the floor. "Hey!" she yells over the music, noticing you for the first time. "What's up?" she asks, seemingly unaware that you were fast asleep.
You flop back onto your bed, put your pillow over your head and groan. "How am I ever going to get through the year?" you wonder.
Scenes like this are not unusual. Getting along with a roommate is a real concern, and one you may be facing for the first time. If you're a bookworm who goes to bed early and your roomie is a party animal who just gets going at midnight, sharing the same quarters may not be easy. But that doesn't mean the two of you can't get along.
The Good News
Perhaps the most important lessons you'll learn in college are the ones you learn outside the classroom. Figuring out how to live with someone involves respecting differences, sharing, being courteous, accepting others for who they are, and much more. You'll find that sharing space builds character.
While most freshmen do miss the privacy of their homes, they also find comfort in sharing company with others who are experiencing the same issues -- difficult courses, living away from home, balancing school work and social life, and a whole lot more. In fact, while there are many alternatives for roommates who don't get along, most do stick it out, and solve their problems by talking it out.
The Talking Cure
Keeping lines of communication open is essential. Before you even step foot in your dorm, give your roommate a call and find out who you'll be living with for the next year. Here are some tips for getting off to a good start:
Discuss important issues and establish rules. If you can't study with music on, then come to an agreement about quiet hours. If she likes to have lots of friends in the room all the time, and you don't, make a schedule so that you can both enjoy the room at different times. If your roommate would rather you didn't study with the light on when she's trying to sleep, she should tell you. If you make house rules, and communicate openly and often, you can avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.
Be respectful. Successful roommate relationships are based on mutual respect. If your roommate doesn't like anyone borrowing her clothes, respect her wishes. If you don't like music on while you're studying, she should respect your needs, too.
Be willing to compromise. You and your roommate may not agree on everything, but you both have to be willing to compromise a little bit. If you're a slob and she's a neat freak, you should start cleaning up, at least in the parts of the room you share. And she should try to be flexible and realize your unmade bed doesn't affect her.
Be courteous. Courtesy is contagious. If you behave politely to your roommate, she will likely follow your lead. Take messages when people call for her. Wish her luck on an exam. Ask if you can pick up something for her while you're running errands. And, don't borrow anything without asking.
Good friendships often begin by sharing space with strangers. So, who knows... maybe that loud, partying roommate you thought you'd never last with will become your good friend.