College Life 101: How to Be a Good Roommate

Photo by Jen Zhu '18 | Jen Zhu ’18 and Nina Xue ’18 are roommates in Sessions House.

Photo by Jen Zhu ’18 | Jen Zhu ’18 and Nina Xue ’18 are roommates in Sessions House.


Hira Himayun ’17
Features Editor

Sharing your personal space with someone is always a challenge, especially in college when your roommate is usually a stranger. Your roommate might also be that close friend from your first year – the friend you thought would be so much fun to live with until they actually moved in. The relationship between roommates is a tricky one. You are both entitled to the room, but not all of your habits align perfectly. If you’re lucky, your habits and schedules will not conflict too much. But what do you do when you find your roommate’s belongings on your side of the room? What do you do when your shelf space is being taken over or when their trash bin is overflowing?

It is important to establish ground rules early on, even if your roommate is one of your old friends. “Good friends” doesn’t always translate into “good roommates,” and often people who go into a roommate arrangement with this assumption often end up ruining a friendship. That is why it is always better to be on the safe side and have that initial talk with said person – even if it is awkward. Make agreements about overnight guests, friends in the room past a certain time and the acceptable volume to play your music. Never hesitate to ask what is and is not okay. Always remember that roommate relationships are a mutual effort. You need to be open and honest about your boundaries to avoid conflict in the future.

Designate shelf and closet spaces, and should you need extra space, never assume that your roommate’s empty shelf is yours to take. If you do find your roommate’s belongings on your side, it is important to communicate to them what your boundaries are and the importance of the limited space you both share. Of course, if it is something insignificant, you may not want to confront them about it. No set-up is perfect, and you must pick and choose your battles.

Outline certain issues that affect the room as a whole. How often should you vacuum or take out the trash? You may keep your side of the room clean, vacuum twice a week and take out your trash every week, but if your roommate’s side of the room begins to accumulate dust mites and hair, it will inevitably make its way to your side. Trash is another issue, as it can result in odor, which will transcend all arbitrary lines of division within the room.

Having a fallout with a roommate is a normal part of college life. It is crucial to first have a dialogue with your roommate before going to Residence Life or simply moving out without explanation. This can lead to resentment that goes past the average roommate drama. Even if circumstances lead to both parties needing to go their separate ways, there is no need to worry. Not every roommate pair is meant to coexist, and sometimes our habits are far too different to reconcile. Either way, learning to live with a roommate, whether it works out or not, can teach us more about ourselves.

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