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HC How To: Getting Along with Your Roommate

One of the trickiest parts of college is living with a stranger and may be one of the most challenging aspects of Hopkins during your 4 years (after your classes, of course…). Sharing your personal space with someone you don’t know well can be weird and scary. You’re also dealing with college classes, tests, and a social life – all extremely stressful!

So what’s a collegiette to do? It’s worth the effort to get along with your roommate. You don’t have to best friends, or even friends but amicability will make things SO much easier.

We all know the best way to have a great roommate experience – communicate! Draw up a roommate agreement and let each other know when you’re driving each other crazy.

Here are some other basic survival tips for managing the relationship with your Roomie:

Clean Up After Yourself: Crumbs on the floor? Vaccum. Dishes in the sink? Do them. If you share a bathroom, clean your hair from the sink and shower (PLEASE!).

In the beginning of the year, you might not mind that there is food lying out and dirty dishes everywhere. Or that the floor is always soaked after your roommate’s shower and her toothpaste is stuck to the sink. But trust me, once Hopkins stress sets in, every little thing will you tick you off. It’s better to start the cleanliness process now. Plus, the dorms at Hopkins sometimes have mice – no reason to make your dorm room their second home.

Be Polite: Remember, you do not have to be friends. It’s a common misconception and it can cause extra anxiety. It’s great if you are but don’t feel pressured to know every detail about her college life.

BUT, being friendly and asking how her day was or classes are going is highly advised. Unless there is a huge issue (in which case you need to deal with it maturely and ASAP), being on speaking terms will make both your lives less awkward and uncomfortable. Both parties should feel completely fine walking into the room regardless if the other person is there – you share the space.

General politeness, ya know the kindergarten stuff, should be an underlying rule of the room. As a foundation, it shows you respect one another and without respect, you’ll find a lot more problems arising.

Never Wake a Sleeping Roommate: Sleep is precious in college and very few of us get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Yes, it is annoying to come back and find a napping roommate when you need to blow dry your hair or have a craving for popcorn but how would you feel if she woke you up? The only time you should wake your roommate is if she asked you to wake her at a set time. Otherwise, suck it up for the 1-hour and go to a friend’s room or do something quiet (I know you have reading to do). A helpful tip to avoid frustration: share your schedule with her. If you have a party to get ready for and need to make some noise tell her in advance so she can nap accordingly.

However, if her napping becomes a habit and your sleep patterns are always off (she’s up all hours of the night and sleeps all day, or visa versa) then that needs to be addressed separately.

Don’t Gossip About Your Roommate: I cannot tell you enough how small this school is. The girl you’re complaining to in Spanish class could be her best friend from chemistry. Or the boy you’re chatting with at a party might be her boyfriend’s friend. No matter how annoying she might get or the complications that arise, keep in mind the person you’re talking to. Speak with a school counselor or a friend at home.

This also goes for the quirky aspects of someone that come out when you live with them. People are weird. It’s a fact of life. But respect her and keep it to yourself. It is just good karma.

Don’t Use Your Roommates Things: Even if you’re desperate for something small – a hair tie, a pencil, a granola bar – stop yourself. If you didn’t purchase it with your own money, it’s off limits. There is nothing more awkward then when you use or take something that doesn’t belong to you, and the owner calls you out. This is followed by…

ALWAYS Ask Permission: The first week of school everyone is desperate to make friends. People let things slide to avoid issues right off the bat. Something your roommate may have okay’d in the beginning – having your friends over, letting your significant other sleep the room– may not be fine anymore. The best way to handle it? Just ask for her permission every.single.time. It is tedious and can be annoying but it is easier to ask for permission than to apologize.

Don’t Make Her Uncomfortable: Doing illegal drugs, drinking alcohol or even cutting your toenails in your room may make your roommate uneasy. The room is equally yours as it is hers. If you know it bugs her or goes against her beliefs, do it somewhere else. It is not worth making your roommate upset over.

And as an obvious hint, don’t do anything physical with anyone while your roommate is sleeping. It’s gross. Figure out a system with her if you’re occupying the room and need privacy. 

Keep Some Boundaries: You live together. That alone is a lot of time with one person. Even if you’re friends, do different things. Eat at different times. Go to the gym separately. Join clubs independently. College is a time to figure things out. It is okay to be alone and not cling to your roommate. Your mental and emotional wellbeing will thank you.

So, while many of these points are common sense, sometimes we still forget them when living with another person. Always remember the golden rule and your year in a double will go by smoothly. Good luck!


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Gabrielle Cohen is an international studies major in the class of 2013 at The Johns Hopkins University. Born and raised in New England suburbia, she is the founder of Her Campus Johns Hopkins and is a member of Phi Mu. In the fall of 2011, she studied in Rome, Italy before returing to Hopkins! Follow her on Twitter at @gabrielleeanna!
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