Maybe you grew up sharing a room with siblings—or maybe you’ve never had a roommate in your life. Whatever your situation, living with a college roommate can be an entirely new, fun, and memorable experience! But sharing a space with someone can be challenging sometimes, too. You’ll see your roommate on their best and worst days. Below are a few tips to help you navigate this exciting new experience with patience, understanding, and clear communication.
1. Create a roommate agreement.
Ok, it sounds weird, but hear us out—the benefits of establishing guidelines for acceptable behavior from the very beginning are more than worth any awkwardness. If you’re an early riser, what are your roommate’s expectations for noise levels in the morning? Or perhaps your roommate is a neat freak, but you don’t mind the dirty dishes piling up. Discuss an appropriate compromise and write out your conclusions. A side note: putting together an agreement isn’t as much work as you might think. Your RA may even have an outline you can use!
2. Respect each other’s space.
This is just simple common courtesy. Sharing a room does not mean there’s a need to invade each other’s space. Take the time to understand the type of space your roommate needs. If your roommate is not a morning person, let them alone until they’ve had their coffee. If they love tidiness, keep your laundry on your side of the room. Don’t eat their food without asking first. Boundaries don’t need to be complicated, but they are absolutely vital. Establish and respect them.
3. Know that you don’t need to be best friends to be great roommates.
If you’re expecting that you and your roommate will instantly bond as best friends, eat every meal together, and participate in all the same activities—we hate to burst your bubble, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone. However, that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t get along as roommates. You can be perfectly polite and friendly without needing to share every moment of your lives.
4. Practice intentional communication.
Stay in touch. This understandably becomes more difficult as the semester picks up and everyone’s schedules begin to fill, but the occasional check-in with your roommate can help maintain a positive living relationship. This can be as simple as pausing to ask how the other person’s day was or scheduling coffee dates to catch up once in a while. The more comfortable the two of you are discussing everyday topics, the easier it will be to address any issues that arise.
5. Address conflict early.
Problems tend to escalate rather than disappear, so if there is something bothering you, let your roommate know before it grows into a bigger issue. Approach the topic sensitively and take the time to listen to their point of view. If you do run into a more serious problem, ask if you can talk in a public space after you’ve allowed time for tempers to cool. If you can’t come to a resolution after discussing the issue, your RA may be able to serve as a mediator. That said, always attempt to work it out between the two of you first. Part of living with a roommate is learning to deal with conflict as the capable adult you are.
6. Embrace this time as a learning experience.
Living with a roommate, you’ll inevitably learn a lot about yourself and how you relate to other people. When frustrations arise, you’ll have the opportunity to practice communication. If you and your roommate have different sleeping schedules, you’ll both learn how to adapt. Throughout your entire life you will meet people with different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints than your own, so take advantage of this opportunity to discover the best ways to get along!
At Bethel, community is about more than just living together. It’s about making this place home. Learn more about life at Bethel University.