This goes out to any incoming freshman that was as terrified as I was to live in the same sixteen by eleven-foot room alongside someone new for an entire year. It is a scary thought, but I guarantee you will get through it, whether your roommate turns out to be a total creep or your best friend (thankfully it was the latter in my case). When it came to figuring out my rooming situation as an incoming freshman, I chose my roommate and they weren’t completely random, we actually both went to the same high school and still live down the street from one another. I think one of the reasons we ended up being such a good fit as roommates is that we weren’t necessarily best friends in high school, just friendly acquaintances. This made it less likely for us to get sick of each other over the year because we were still getting to know each other and becoming better friends.
Your first year of college is like no other, a whirlwind of new things. You finally have independence and with this newfound independence, you learn a lot – like the fact that the floor doesn’t vacuum itself or that trash needs to be taken out or else it smells up the room. You learn that you indeed need to do your laundry… ON YOUR OWN! Most importantly you learn how to develop new amazing bonds with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. In my case, my roommate and my friendship was one of those amazing bonds that sprouted in a freshman year shoebox, this shoebox was 205 Penobscot Hall to be exact. We actually ended up getting along so well, we decided to live together again. So this goes out to whoever needs to hear it, these are my tips to successfully coexisting in a dorm room with either a complete stranger, someone you might be acquainted with or your best friend.
Branching Out: This is something I want to emphasize. Coming into freshman year, my sister (a junior at the University of Maine at the time) had told me just how important it was to be open to new relationships. Everyone is in the same awkward “very few friends, should I go up and talk to them?” phase. Ways to open yourself up to new friendships are to utilize those first few days of Move-In weekend and when you are hanging out in your dorm room either unpacking or getting to know your roommate, a pro tip is to constantly keep the door to your room open. This simple and small action suggests you are open to people poking their heads in and saying hi. When you are at the dining hall, work up the courage to go sit at a table with people you don’t know. Trust me, it won’t be as scary as you’re anticipating or expecting it to be. Push your comfort zone and in addition, compliments are never a bad default if you want to start a conversation or attempt to get to know someone new. If you like someone’s shoes or their hair, TELL THEM! People love compliments, giving and receiving – they will only leave a positive impression on the person. Branching out to new people will ensure you a group of friends in your building or a few more familiar faces in your residence hall that will make your day to day dorm life so much better.
Laying Down the Law: This is so important when living with someone new. Even if you are good friends with the person, make sure you lay down some mutually understood ground rules. This is something that was enforced by my Resident Assistant early on, we had to come up with rules regarding quiet times, cleanliness, nights out, sex and PDA in the room, and arguably one of the most important, respecting one another. It is important to play by these rules throughout the year, as a healthy relationship with your roommate relies on this mutual respect. Not abiding by your rules or theirs can lead to serious arguments, bottled up tensions, and just uncomfortable situations that nobody wants to deal with in the dorm room they reside in.
Respect: Remember that your room is a shared space. Often times roommates feel uncomfortable bringing up issues regarding respecting one another’s boundaries and space because it’s human nature to never want to be wrong and to not want to enter conflict. I have heard of many roommate situations in which one party enters a relationship and all of a sudden the boyfriend or girlfriend is a third roommate. Obviously, this is something that you have to respect because you know and expect that they like to spend time with one another, so instead of getting angry that the guy or girl is in the room all the time, bring it up with your roommate in a non-accusatory way. Truthfully, they are really not doing anything wrong and probably unaware that you feel like a third wheel and that was never their intention. This goes both ways, if you are in a relationship, be aware that your roommate might feel uncomfortable with your significant other spending too much time in your shared room, but maybe they are too concerned to bring it up in fear of the conversation that would ensue. Value mutual respect and remember that you share the room so the person residing with you has just as much say about the happenings in the room as you do.
Bring Up Issues (i.e. communication is key): Going along with respect, make sure to bring up any issues when they first arise. There is nothing worse than holding in emotions and then exploding, this could lead to a really bad fight that could crumble your healthy rooming situation. Feed your relationship with healthy energy. If something is bothering you in your living situation or within your relationship – talk about it. I know I used my time laying in bed before heading to sleep as an opportunity to talk about anything that was on my mind with my roommate, and she would tell me what was on hers. This is the key to a healthy relationship and strong coexisting. Most of the time it was just small things with easy fixes, so if we shared the problems arising, it gave us something to work on and to ensure that these fixes were long term. For example, if you aren’t keeping your side of the room clean, taking out the trash once doesn’t make up for the normality of disarray.
Be a Friend: The most important thing in your roommate relationship is being there for them. Listen to what your roommate has to say and make them feel acknowledged – if they had a bad day console them and let them talk about it. Make sure that you’re there as an outlet and a friend to talk to if something happens. Not everyone is open or feels comfortable talking to their roommate about personal issues, but it’s good to remember that we all have our own internal battles and having just one person understand and make you feel heard can make all the difference. There are good days and bad days, but a roommate should be there every day – in fact, they sleep three feet away so there’s no reason for them not to be!
Various Tips and Tricks from a Few Fellow Dorm Veterans:
Not all of your rooming situations will be ideal:
“If you’re unhappy in your living situation, don’t hesitate to look for other housing options” – Polly Rae (second-year student)
“Buy a pair of slippers that have treads on the bottom, you are going to use them to go to the bathroom, your friends room, downstairs to pick up delivery, to do your laundry, literally everywhere.” – Mary Johnson (fourth year student)
“Take showers at night on weekdays. On weekends shower in the morning to avoid shower traffic.” – Nate Tracy (fifth-year student)
“Don’t let things bottle up, bring them up as they happen.” -Tessa Solomon (first-year student)
BONUS – Dining Hall Hack: Scrambled Eggs with Pizazz
“The scrambled eggs are kind of nasty, bland is a better way to put it. You take two bowls, you fill one with your scrambled eggs and then add salsa, tater tots, chopped onions, diced tomatoes, peppers, hot sauce and cheese on top. Then you put the other bowl on top. Invert the top bowl and cover the bottom bowl, then you press them together and shake, and you just mix it all together and then you have not bland scrambled eggs with toppings and sauces evenly mixed.” – Max Burtis and Emily Coffin (second-year students)