Leonard is a sophomore magazine journalism and graphic design major and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part of everyone’s college experience is learning how to live with a new person; for me, it was learning how to live with four.
After both of my roommates didn’t come back for the second semester, I was living in a triple on my own. It wasn’t until I was told that I would be getting two new roommates that I really became aware of how much of a challenge it can be to learn to live with someone new.
During my first semester I had already gone through not getting along with a roommate. We struggled with communication, got on each other’s nerves and drove each other to the brink of insanity, all without making eye contact. This was definitely something that I didn’t want to go through again, so when I found out I would be receiving two new roommates, I was devastated.
I started planning ways that I could get these girls to move out in my head, but as the days inched closer to move-in day, I was too exhausted with finals to actually do anything. All I knew to do was mentally prepare myself for the worst. Screaming, yelling, freak accidents, being woken up in the middle of the night, the whole shebang, but it never came. My new roommate was as quiet as a mouse and as polite as can be; I suddenly felt bad for all of my vicious thoughts.
By the time last semester ended and the second roommate was starting to move in, I had cooled off enough to handle another person in the room. We had all previously lived in bad roommate situations and none of us wanted a repeat situation.
The night before the first day of classes, we talked about talking through our problems and being open to each other, immediately laying out ground rules. This can be challenging, frustrating and uncomfortable, but the less effort you put into it, the less likely you’re going to get along.
After living with four different people plus dealing with everyone else on my floor, this is my established list of guidelines for making it through the year; it has yet to fail me. Remember to smile, be as positive as possible, people will want to be your friend rather than your enemy.
Becca Leonard’s guide to roommate survival
If you can’t communicate, you can’t do anything. Learning how to handle different personalities starts with expressing what you need and want. You may not always agree, but it’s the first step to finding common ground.
2. Find common ground:
No one-sided relationship ever works out. If you share things in the room, make sure everyone is contributing. If someone brings dish soap with them and everyone is using it, rotate who is going to buy it next; if one person vacuums the whole room, make sure the chore is getting rotated as well. When trying to decide on something, find a level that everyone is comfortable with. By keeping a balanced relationship, no one feels superior or inferior, which will lessen the tension.
3. Talk it out:
Whether you’re best friends or distant strangers, sitting on something that is bothering you rather than saying something will only create resentment toward the person you’re living with. This is going to be the hardest thing to do, but once you do it, you’ll feel loads better.
4. Don’t judge:
The moment you start judging is the moment you put your wall up. If you’re making harsh judgments against someone, you’re not going to want to get to know that person any more than you have to, and even then it will be challenging for you to do so.
5. Be open-minded:
If you walk into anything with a bad attitude, your results are going to be less than positive. Keeping yourself open to things allows you to learn and understand things that you may not have known about; it also helps to build a foundation of respect. Being closed-minded to someone’s way of life is a sign of disrespect and shows your unwillingness to change. College is about growing and developing. Being open-minded is key.