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How To Bond With Your Freshman Year Roommate, According To A Her Campus Editor

Today, we’re talking about freshman year roommates. In Ask An Editor, Her Campus Editors answer readers’ questions about how to be a human. This month, Her Campus’s Deputy Editor, Iman Hariri-Kia, hosts office hours. 

Dear Editor,

Is it true that no one likes their freshman year roommate?

Sincerely, 

 Coexist-ential Crisis

Dear Coexist-ential Crisis,

No. That’s it. That’s the article.

Just kidding, Reader. I have much more to say on the subject because I am living proof that this isn’t the case. 

On paper, my freshman year roommate and I couldn’t have been more of a mismatch. She was a collegiate athlete who had to wake up at 5:00 a.m. for practice each morning. I arranged my class schedule to allow me to sleep in until noon. She liked bright colors and mismatched patterns, never minding the mess. I was a minimalist who had grown up cosmopolitan, who freaked out whenever there was a pillow out of place. Her sense of humor was pure potty; mine was all sarcasm. We were far too different. We’d never say eye-to-eye. We could never make it work. Right?

Wrong. We went on to live together for all four years. In fact, she just sent me a text. It’s like she could feel that I was writing this about her. Her roomie senses still tingle.

You see, hypothetically, my roommate and I had nothing in common. But in practice? We quickly discovered that we were both deeply extroverted, empathetic, and driven. Although our interests and tastes rarely overlapped, that also meant we never competed with one another. Instead, we remained respectful and supportive of each other’s academic and professional pursuits. I knew she was my person the very first time we went out to dinner, and she had the room dancing within minutes. I admired her optimism and envied her confidence. No one can make me smile like she does. 

Here’s how you can enter and exit your freshman year smiling, too:

Roommates Bond Through Shared Experiences

You don’t need to read the same books or watch the same movies. You don’t need to take the same classes or join the same intramural teams. You don’t even need to belong to the same friend group. The key to bonding with your roommate? Sharing new experiences, in real time. Instead of signing up for the same club, attend the club fair with your new roommate and spend time perusing the booths, swapping interests, and laughing over the outlandish displays. You don’t have to spend your entire night arm-in-arm, talking to the same people, but you can walk to your first college party together, then meet up at the end of the evening for late-night pizza. My first night of college, I helped my roommate with a bathroom emergency, and she later took care of me when I felt sick. Sharing smaller, more intimate moments with your roommate will allow room for vulnerability and connect you two as a pair.  

Roommates Respect Each Other’s Boundaries

Not to state the audience, but dorm rooms are small. You’re living in close quarters, sharing closet space, and swapping shower caddies. In order to deal, communicate your boundaries up front. Are you cool with sharing clothing but not makeup? Do you have rules around hosting pre-games or having friends over on weeknights? What about sleepovers or late-night study sessions? Be honest about what you need, then listen to your roommate in return. Really hear what they have to say, too — don’t assume that you’ll be able to change their mind or loosen their boundaries as time goes on. For example, my roommate needed to go to sleep early on weeknights, so I knew I had to be quiet after a certain time. I, in turn, needed an hour to play my guitar each day. Once we knew where the lines were drawn, we didn’t cross them. 

Roommates Show Up For Each Other When It Counts

When you live with someone, you get an inside look into who they are when no one’s looking. You get a sense of their true values, hopes, and heartbreaks. The very best way to bond with your roommate is to grow attuned to those truths and to be there for them to the very best of your abilities. Did your roommate ace an exam that they spent nights cramming for? Be there to celebrate their success. Did she get ghosted by that one person she kept drafting then deleting texts to? Let her know that she can take what she needs from you, whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or a little extra space. I spent four years in the stands, watching my roommate compete. And whenever I had a gig with my aforementioned guitar, she was there in the audience, making sure I’d have a friendly face in the crowd. These tiny gestures made all the difference.

Of course, you don’t have to be best friends with your roommate. Sometimes, just tolerating each other is a formidable goal. If that’s the case for you, remember that, like all relationships, the key to cohabitation is building a foundation of mutual respect and open and honest communication. And one last thing: Even if you’re lonely, I promise that you’re not alone. College campuses can feel massive and overwhelming, but you will cross paths with someone who gets you in the next four years. You will find your person.

More importantly, you’ll find yourself. 

Love,

Iman

Iman Hariri-Kia is a New York-based writer, author, and Her Campus Deputy Editor. A 2017 recipient of the Annabelle Bonner Medal and a nationally acclaimed journalist, she covers sex, relationships, identity, adolescence, and more. Her debut novel, A HUNDRED OTHER GIRLS, will be published in spring 2022.
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