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The Five Types of Roommates You’ll Encounter in College and How To Deal With Them

Most people hope that the minute they move into their first college dorm, they’ll walk in, meet the person they’ve been assigned to live with and inadvertently meet their best friend for the next four (or more) years of their lives. Or at least, everyone hopes to somewhat get along with whomever they’ll be living with for an entire school year. However, sometimes, it’s not that simple.

I am in my third year of college and for each semester that I’ve been going to school (including this past summer term), I’ve had a different roommate. And they’ve all been, in all their own rights, quite the cast of characters to enter my life. I have met so many different personalities from the very quiet to the very confrontational to the very easy to talk to. And I’ve seen these experiences as a sort of test of my communication skills.

So, without further ado, I have put together a list of all the various kinds of roommates you may come in contact with and how you can navigate each one, especially if you’re feeling like you don’t know how to get around your roommate’s personality or tendencies.

1. The Quiet Roommate

I should, from my experience, call this the silent roommate. My very first college roommate hardly ever spoke to me. It’s just the way she was; she was a quiet, shy person around people she didn’t know. This, of course, gave me some anxiety, given that I’d hoped we’d try to make friends together. We were both in a completely new environment, but it just wasn’t her style, which she of course was entitled to. The issue I faced most, however, was how to bring things up to her about our living situation, whether it be about guests, sleeping habits, when we could turn the lights off at night, getting home really late, etc. Our conversations weren’t exactly the most verbose, so I wasn’t sure if they’d get anywhere. My solution, being a freshman who had never shared a room with a stranger, was to avoid the problem as much as possible, hopefully figuring out a solution on my own. This is not what anyone should ever do. I used to get aggravated when she’d Skype her girlfriend while I was trying to do homework, she didn’t like that I slept with the television on at night, and outside of our room we were more or less strangers who’d just pass each other by if we did see one another on the street. So, if you’re having this kind of issue with your roommate, here is my hindsight advice: you’re most likely going to have to let of the idea of being close friends with this person. If you’re a freshman, this means branching out to other people such as classmates or floormates (like I did). Don’t let this one setback make you disengage socially. However, you don’t want to be consistently aggravated with this person or feel as though you’re walking on eggshells around her either because you share a living space that you both should feel comfortable in it. It sounds simple, but you’re just going to have to speak to them about whatever it is that’s bothering you, whether it’s noises, guests, or whatever else it may be. Chances are, they have no idea how you’re feeling—even if you drop all kinds of hints like I did—and are just as afraid to confront you. This way, your living situation will, at the least, be harmonious for both of you.

2. The Roommate With a Libido

College can be a common time for people to express their true selves and figure out who exactly they are…sexually. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this until you’re doing what is known around many colleges as sex-iling your roommate(s) a lot more frequently than you should. Yes, your room and your bed are a part of your living space, where you should feel the most comfortable and do whatever makes you happy. However, when you’re sharing a room you have to realize your roommate probably has those same expectations. I had a roommate who I thought was a great person, who I loved talking to and unfortunately, who would do this to me all. the. time. Mostly, I tried to be understanding. However, when I was consistently asked for the room, more than once a day and multiple times during the week, my patience started to wane, and I didn’t handle it the way I should have. I didn’t really say anything about it and just let it happen because I didn’t know of an alternative solution and certainly didn’t want to set up some kind of sex schedule. However, I never set the precedent that I could in fact say no when she’d text me and ask, which is what I should have done. This is another situation when you’re just going to have to speak up for yourself and put your foot down. It is their room yes, but it’s just as much your room too, and you shouldn’t be made to feel like an unwelcome visitor, or especially uncomfortable!

3. The Partier Roommate

So it’s sophomore year, I’ve transferred to the school I’ve always wanted to go to, and I found roommates through NYU to share an apartment off-campus. I’m hoping that this new roommate and I will become close friends. Although we tried making it work, it just didn’t for a plethora of reasons. I realized in the end that we were such different people, and I wasn’t able to—and quite frankly didn’t really want to—keep up with her partying kind of personality. This is not to say she was out of control by any means, but when we would go out we’d stay out all hours of the night, well past when I wanted to go home (to the point where me asking for us to go home at 3 AM was not possible). Sometimes, she would take what is known as “Molly” at parties, which I’d heard of plenty of people doing. I just was never interested in trying it. A lot of times, she’d have guests upon guests visit and have me go out with them—which I did because I wanted to make friends—but I just started to feel like it was all too much, and while I do like partying on weekends, I just don’t like it to that degree. A few times, our other roommate and I sat down with her to talk about some of the things she was doing that were bothering the both of us, but nothing seemed to work. This is my other piece of advice apart from communication: it is okay to remove yourself from the situation if it feels like nothing is working out. For dorming, it usually just takes filling out a room swapping request form, and the next semester you’ll be in a different environment. For us, it was a bit more difficult because we had a lease with an apartment complex, but if you become this unhappy with a living situation, you shouldn’t let it, especially if you’ve tried to remedy it. There’s usually always something you can do, whether it’s staying with a friend for a while, or talking to your landlord about the exact terms of your lease. If you feel that it’s just not working out no matter what, you shouldn’t feel stuck because there is always a solution. And sometimes, it’s okay to think about your feelings first.

4. The Passive Aggressive Roommate

Ah yes, many people know this one quite well, the one who won’t directly tell you something is wrong, but you can feel the tension just hang all over your living space. I had one of them in my long array of roommates, and it just felt like I was constantly putting my foot in my mouth, no matter what I said or did. Once, I lived in a suite where we shared our silverware and cookware, provided that whoever used it cleaned up afterwards. One day, when the two of us were making food in the kitchen, she asked me if I’d been using her spoons. To be honest, I didn’t even know which ones were hers because I’d used everyone’s utensils including my own, but cleaned them immediately after finishing my meal. I responded that I may have, but if I did, I made sure I washed it. All she said was “okay” while sighing and closing the drawer. I could clearly tell that it was definitely not okay, but I never brought it up again, because I didn’t know how. I stayed away from her spoons since that event, but I never appreciated the way she addressed the issue, which I found was how she addressed all issues. If you’re having the same problem with a passive aggressive roommate, be as direct as possible and ask very honestly if you did something that bothered them (especially when you can clearly tell you did). This way, you’re not asking them why they addressed the issue the way they did and making them feel defensive, but instead you are showing them that you’re trying to right a wrong (if there is a wrong that needs to be righted). Even if the passive aggressiveness persists, as it usually does if that’s someone’s personality type, just continue doing so. It’ll show your roommate that you’re actually putting in the effort to make it a comfortable living space for the both of you.

5. Your Friend Roommate

Lastly, you could be living with someone you’re fairly close to, which is great! You’ll find that living with someone you’re already friends with can make communicating a lot easier because you know how they’ll generally respond. However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be any problems. Some friends will have similar sleeping schedules, living habits and cleaning habits, but if those differ and that starts to be a problem, it should be addressed right away. Nothing ruins a friendship more than resentment over a long period of time. The problem can sometimes be that because you’re friends, you don’t want to cause a rift in the relationship or hurt feelings, but don’t think this way! They should be a lot happier that you came to them right away because I guarantee they’d be more hurt if you started pulling away and they found out you’d been harboring these feelings without their knowledge. Your roommate is also your friend, and she’s most likely already worked pretty hard to keep you in her life just by rooming with you, so she’ll most likely want to work to live with you in an amiable way so that you stay friends for a long time!

While the prospect of living with someone in a college setting may seem like it can be totally ambiguous and you never know what you’re going to get even if you know the person well, you only need to make sure the lines of communication are always open, and that both your feelings are taken into account at all times. As a result, you’ll both get what you want from the living experience, no matter what kind of friendship you end up having.

Molly LeGrow is a sophomore NYU Gallatin student studying all forms of communication including editorial writing, digital media, dance and sign language. She loves all forms of expressing different messages to audiences and all forms of interaction with others and their opinions which is why online blogging is a special interest.
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