5 Lessons I Learned From a Bad Random Roommate Experience

After stressfully searching for someone to live with, you did it — you went with random! The university is going to choose someone for you to live with. Unlike Lucky Apartments, which offers a questionnaire for their “dorm life” residents who choose to go random for a roommate, UW-Madison housing places a complete stranger in your room that may or may not be compatible with you. You don’t get to choose whether you prefer a non-smoking roommate, roommate of a certain religion, someone with dietary restrictions, and so forth…


1. First Impressions Matter

It’s been a year since I had to live with my two random roommates. None of us got a great first impression of the other and so the year was off to a rocky start. One of my roommates came across as overly fake, while the other came off as snotty and not willing to compromise on matters. While I rapidly made assumptions about my roommates, they were doing the same with me. I quickly made friends on my floor, and we went to the first football game together. This made my roommates think I didn’t like them or want to hang out with them. None of us talked out our issues at the start of the year which created tension throughout the next several months.  


2. Be Sure to Talk Things Out

If there’s a problem, be sure to talk about it. It may be intimidating to express your thoughts to someone you have to live with, but not talking about it will make things worse. Take notes about things that bug you so that you can refer back to them when talking, but do it in a timely matter. Don’t reference something from three months ago because, at that point, it’ll be too late.


3. Moderate with your House Fellow

If you are living in the UW dorms or in a dorm-style facility, the RAs and House Fellows are there for a reason. Going to a house fellow is like going to a professor’s office hours, you might not want to do it at the time, but it is extremely helpful in the long run. In my case, it was my two roommates against me, which made the situation less than ideal. My house fellow was able to help us discuss all of the issues that we were having.


4. Figure Out a Cleaning Schedule — and Clean in General

While it may seem obvious to say, “Oh, we will take out the trash when it gets full,” the same person ends up continually taking out the garbage, leading to frustration. Taking turns vacuuming, taking out the garbage and tidying up your space will make the living environment more enjoyable and less stressful.


5. You Don’t Have to Be Best Friends

While you may want to be besties with your roommate, truthfully you only have to tolerate each other. You’ll likely make other friends on your floor, in your classes or in the clubs you join. Hopefully, your roommate(s) will like you for you, but if that doesn’t happen, don’t change who you are to fit in. Be your own person. Don’t feel an obligation to hang out with your roommate(s) just because you share a space.


As Aretha Franklin said, RESPECT. Be respectful and friendly to your roommates, always. Putting in a little effort can go a long way in making the best of the situation. The year will go by quickly, and soon you’ll be living with people you chose yourself.