Students are bound to encounter issues with their first college roommate—the trick is being able to maturely handle conflict.
Living in close quarters with an unfamiliar individual is just asking for problems. Stolen food, dirty clothes, unmade beds and mysteriously absent items are commonplace. Living with another person can be a challenge, and oftentimes conflict is lurking just around the corner. Confrontation can be a scary thing for students to deal with, especially when living with someone they have to see on a daily basis like in a dorm. The way students approach living with their roommate can make the difference between a comfortable, understanding living environment and coming home to find marinara dumped in their brand-new shoes.
Students should use “I” phrases when talking to their roommate, explaining what they feel and the issues they have instead of accusing the other person. For example, “I feel like you should clean your side of the room more” or “I think you should ask me before taking my food” is preferable to “you” phrases, which can come off as confrontational and catty. Statements like “you need to clean your side of the room more” or “you need to ask me before taking my food” sound confrontational and can lead to greater conflict and passive aggression.
Students should consider the experience of living with their first roommate as if it were another class. It gets tiring, but it is a learning experience. I am sure I am not the only person that has awakened, glanced over at the other side of the room and snidely rolled my eyes in aggravation that my roommate was still there. My personal space and time to myself is invaluable. Sometimes I just want the room to myself so I can blast Beyoncé at the highest volume possible while lip-synching like a New York City drag queen on the latest edition of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Is that too much to ask for?
Students may feel antisocial and not want to interact with their roommate. A little space is understandable—no one wants to be shut in a room with another person like they are bunkmates doing four months in the county penitentiary. However, students can and should bond with their roommates while still maintaining their personal space.
University officials should consider investing in more in-depth roommate compatibility tests to help curb roommate issues. These tests would help connect students who share the same values, rules, interests and taste as roommates. While good things can come out of two dissimilar strangers getting to know each other, there is a chance things could go south quickly in such a situation. The tests could be optional for students who want to find a roommate with similar values. Students should be able to opt-in to the roommate compatibility test, especially since some might prefer to room with someone vastly different than them to broaden their horizons and perspectives.
College roommate issues will continue to persist no matter what the university does, however. Wanting to strangle your roommate at least once or twice is normal. Trust me I have been there—hell, I am still there. However, students need to deal with these issues in a mature and appropriate manner. The university investing in a more advanced roommate survey system can help combat these issues to a degree. In the end, however, students just need to suck it up and take living with their first roommate for what it is—a learning experience.