How to Get Along With Your First College Roommate
For most college freshmen, your dorm roommate is the first person you’ve ever lived with that close but not related to you. They may be less annoying than a sibling, but you won’t have parents to mediate disputes. Here’s how to get on the right foot with someone who will sleep three feet away from you all year.
Quartz writer Annabelle Timsit asked her fellow Freshman Horror Stories about the room from her colleagues, and they rushed in. Not all of them were bad; some people still remain good friends with the person with whom they were accidentally assigned to share a life. For most others, this roommate is just a memory. But not distant! Everyone seems to have a particular criticism or experience to share, and these tidbits can help you get your bearings in the dorm.
They are not as unpleasant as you think.
A guy named Edmund told Timsit that when he first met his roommate at Trinity College, he hated him:
“I immediately ran into one of the guys I was assigned to live with in Trinity. To be honest, everything he did seemed anathema to me – he was loud, annoying, he thought too highly of himself. At first, I was probably a little too reserved and a little timid, but for most of the six months it was constant petty arguments and occasional mockery of each other. […] But at some point we both realized that we are more alike than different. Five years later, we are best friends – and he was the only person who was by my side through everything. “
Change worries us. It interferes with our sense of identity. It’s easy to project our discomfort onto someone else, especially when they’re eating cereal loudly across the room. Before you worry, consider that there is nothing strange or bad about your roommate. You’re just stressed. Give yourself time to settle before judging them for all eternity.
Find a common language
One point of common interest or understanding can be critical in dealing with roommates. According to Mark, Timsit’s colleagues, openness and generosity also go a long way:
“It’s not that hard to get along with people, and it can quickly lead to a sense of ‘I understand’ that you share, which creates the basis for friendship.”
Or it might just give you something to talk about. A foundation for friendship is great, but you probably need to say something to your roommate to be polite and keep the peace. Maybe you like the same soccer team, share a favorite flavor of ramen noodles, or are both studying Sociology 101. Both of you are human – look for something to talk about when the atmosphere is tense due to the toilet paper.
Show some respect
One story was about a rather endearing misunderstanding of a woman named Sarah, who had never met a Jew in her life before she was paired with her freshman roommate. The two are supposedly still close friends, although Sarah literally hid her roommate’s matzah after not understanding the tradition of hiding afikomen for Easter. This story might have turned out differently if told by Sarah’s old roommate, and that’s the problem: perspective.
You may be assigned a roommate with a different cultural background than your own, who celebrates different holidays, eats different foods, and has different ideas about what is appropriate to do at home. These differences will always be difficult to make sense of, so let’s just say that the main thing to remember is respect. Treat other people with this and reap the benefits.
The second thing to keep in mind is that often people with marginalized identities end up doing a lot of teaching for their more privileged roommates. If you are in a privileged position, do not burden anyone with your ignorance or bias, as Timsita’s colleague Nikhil noted, who explained that randomized roommate policies can “expose” privileged people to learned experiences, but this is often at the expense of people becoming experience, adding that “rich people“ learn ”about the poor; [heterosexuals] get the opportunity to “learn” about homosexuals ”through“ the work of a less influential group ”.
Treating people well can be one of the best lessons you can learn from college, so start with your new best friend.