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The Roommate Era: What I Learned Living Off Campus

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at McMaster chapter.

September is the month of new beginnings. New jobs, new school year, new crushes, new friends, and of course, new anxiety – especially for university students. The beginning of the school year is a nostalgic time for so many. It’s the time to embark on a journey of self-exploration and humbling yourself through brutal academic experiences. For most returning students, it is also a time to finally move out of their depressing dorm rooms and into a low-budget, friendly student house with other students they barely know as they discover new qualities about themselves and each other. I’ve been living off campus for the past two years now and let me tell you, it has been one heck of a roller coaster, but in the best way possible. I’d like to share some of the most important lessons I learned from living off campus.  

1. Establish Healthy Communication Habits 

The cardinal rule of living with roommates is to establish healthy communication habits. It goes without saying. Everyone has their own preferences in terms of living, and it is important to be open-minded and respectful of each other’s choices. Have a house meeting at the start of the year and communicate your lifestyle choices and daily routine to your house. This will help to avoid potential conflicts and maintain a good relationship with your housemates. One of the tips that have worked for my house is making a chore chart to evenly distribute tasks throughout the week. At the beginning of the year, we all sat down to discuss preferred noise and cleanliness levels and came to a mutual understanding that everyone deemed to be fair. Developing healthy communication habits are crucial in developing trust and learning more about each other. It also helps to set healthy boundaries for yourself. I found that everyday activities like cooking together, watching movies, and having late-night bonding sessions were enough to develop close relationships with my housemates. I know it may seem like a lot of pressure to have to adapt to a new routine when living with different people, but I believe that the housemate experience is an amazing opportunity to explore and navigate personal space and lifestyle preferences.

2. Challenge Yourself to Try New Things 

I value this tip the most as this was the one I struggled with immensely. Don’t be afraid of change. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be super intimidating, especially when you are forced to adapt to a new way of life so quickly. When you become afraid, fear can take over your mind and you start to implant negative thoughts in your head. The fear you let build up in your mind is usually worse than the situation that actually exists. Don’t let fear stop you from becoming the best version of yourself. Let fear prompt you into action and allow you to take the chance to challenge yourself to try new things and embrace the unordinary. Set small goals for yourself to achieve throughout the week in order to develop new healthy routines and help you sustain momentum. In my case, I wasn’t used to Hamilton’s transit system, because I would never ride the bus in my hometown (#passengerprincess). However, after living off campus for two years, you get into the habit of forcing yourself to try new things because of the environment you are in. I was very scared of traveling by myself to a nearby location. It took many detours and getting lost throughout Hamilton to actually get comfortable navigating the city. Now, you can catch me cruising through Hamilton like a champ. It’s all about believing in yourself and trusting the process, because once you develop self-confidence, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.  

3. Visit Home Often 

This one is more personal but if you are family-oriented, homesickness is inevitable, and it will hit you like a ton of bricks, especially during the busiest times of the year. Whenever you have the chance to go home, take it without a doubt. Living on your own helps you develop a deep sense of gratitude for your family – you tend to appreciate all the little things you took for granted and start to understand that there’s actually no place like home. Call your family if you miss them. Tell them you love them. Never ever take them for granted.  

The housemate experience is one of the best times you will experience throughout undergrad. I understand that living independently can be very intimidating, especially if you’ve moved far away from home with limited support from your family. It’s hard to balance school and your social life while also navigating a new world outside of your comfort zone. I believe that self-growth occurs when you put yourself in uncomfortable situations and step out of your comfort zone. I encourage you to embrace the small moments, learn new things, connect with your housemates, and most of all, enjoy every experience you have of living off campus because before you know it, you’ll be packing your bags and reminiscing on all the beautiful memories you made.  

Shanmitha Kumar

McMaster '24

Hello there bloggers! My name is Shanmitha and I'm so excited to be a writer for Her Campus this year. One of my hobbies is to read and write, especially journal. I enjoy writing as it is a form of self care for me. Writing has always been my creative outlet to escape to whenever I am stressed or overwhelmed. I like to note down my thoughts to fully understand my emotions and where I'm coming from as writing gives me a lot more clarity about my inner thoughts and allows me to come to terms with my emotions and find a solution in a rational manner. My goal as a writer for Her Campus is to write about issues that anyone may be facing in silence and help them overcome their struggles. Apart from writing, you can find me exploring new cafes, learning a dance routine, singing a cover of Taylor Swift and travelling. I am so looking forward to reading everyone's articles and join the team!!