Welcome to the start of the Dorm Living Series!
Let’s face it, we all have problems with people we live with – no matter the relationship. Whether you’re moving in with new people or going back to school with your closest friends, here’s some first-hand advice from someone who’s lived with a few different people.
1: New Roommates
Help! I don’t know my roommate.
First off, don’t sweat it! Pretty much everyone has experienced moving in with someone they’ve never met before.
Secondly, a lot of schools and staff (specifically the Residence Advisor) will guide you in the right direction. My freshman year, we had this thing called the “Rooming Agreement.” Everyone thinks it’s stupid and unnecessary at the time. That is, until you find yourself kicked out of your own room because your roommate has a new boy over. Maybe we should have gone over some ground rules.
Starting with the basic rules, it’s good to go over what you and your roommate both like: Sleeping arrangements, schedules, individual and shared belongings, and guest rules. Going over this in the very beginning will set the ground rules and will help to avoid any awkward, annoying or uncertain situations. It will also be easier to talk about any problems once they arise if you went over these things in the beginning.
What if we don’t get along at all?
If you’re anything alike, you’re likely going to grow very close, very quickly. That’s the magic of a new roommate. Once you get past the awkward meeting phase (which will last a day or two, you watch), you’ll immediately grow close because you’re with them 24/7.
It’s just like if you go away to a sleep-away camp. You come home missing your new “best friend,” don’t you? Proximity is the biggest factor to friendship, and of course shared qualities help.
If you end up just not clicking with your roommate, that’s okay too! They don’t HAVE to be your best friend, you only have to sleep in a room with them – and when that seems impossible or uncomfortable, talk to your RA or any staff. Switching rooms is actually super common for freshman. No matter your year, it doesn’t have to be a dramatic affair. Choose what’s best for you and what makes you happy.
Where can I meet other people?
Odds are, you live in a big enough dorm building that you can walk the halls or sit in a common room and meet some new people.
The common room in your dorm building is the key to finding friends. My freshman year, I would sit out in the common living area on my floor to do homework. There was a TV out there, so sometimes some boys would come and sit on the couches and watch the football game that was on. I found that it was always the same group of people out in that room, and we ended up forming a little friend group.
It isn’t always that easy, but it’s a place to start. You’ll also meet people in the library, school bookstore, dining hall, gym, and even just walking to class! Be friendly, wear a smile, and you may even become friends with the girl in the bagel line behind you.
Everyone else is trying to make friends too! Especially if you’re new to campus or a freshman. That’s the biggest thing: Don’t be afraid to just say hi!
2: Rooming with Friends
I’m living with my childhood and high school friends!
That’s definitely exciting! If you’re going to be moving in with someone you already knew from high school, your childhood, or elsewhere, then you likely already know that you mesh well.
However, when living with someone, it can bring out new things that may not have bothered you before or simply something you had not seen. That’s why I advise to room with new people so that you can have that fresh start, plus set boundaries and expectations. In some cases, moving in with old friends can ruin friendships – too much time together isn’t always the best thing!
This is NOT always the case, so do not let it discourage you. Nonetheless it’s still something that needs to be talked about, just like any other roommate relationship.
So let’s say you decided you’re living with your best friend: Even though they’re your friend and you know each other well, this doesn’t mean you should skip over all the same steps that new roommates go over. Set rules early on for everything from having guests and significant others over, to sharing food, clothes or anything else. A lot of people who move in with old friends skip over the basics because they don’t think they need to, and wind up getting in fights with their best friends.
As long as you still set boundaries early on, you’ll be fine! You’re going to have a blast living with someone that you’re lucky enough to call your best friend.
I’m living with 2 people. What if I’m left out of things?
A group of 3 can often save room for separation. Although this isn’t good, it’s natural. We tend to cling to one person or another, and when one person is left out, it sucks. We’ve all been there.
Recognize that it’s natural for 2 people to do things without always making it a “group thing.” However, when it seems intentional, that’s when it crosses the line. If you’re living with 2 people you already know, you likely already know what the dynamic is. If you’re living with 2 people you haven’t met yet, take this as an opportunity! If you don’t get along with one of them, maybe you’ll grow close with the other one. No matter what the dynamic turns out to be, it’s not the end of the world. Your roommates are not your only friends. You’re going to meet new people in classes and around campus. Don’t expect to do everything with your roommates all the time. Branch out!
If you’re having serious exclusion problems, definitely speak up. Talking things out is always the better option, no matter how scary confrontation can be. Instead of speaking in an attacking manner, just ask your roommates to keep you informed with what they’re doing so that you can join in next time. Be honest and tell them you feel. If they are the right people for you, they’ll care and make that effort. Communication!
3. Sharing & Coordinating
Do I have to make my part of the room match with theirs?
No! You can certainly communicate what color scheme you’re going to have or what your comforter and blankets look like, but you don’t need to match. At all.
A lot of studies show that going with your own theme and buying whatever you want without coordinating with roommates is beneficial for independence, confidence, and remaining true to what you really love. While it may be aesthetically pleasing (and please, if you really want to match, go for it!) you don’t HAVE to match anything. Is my coral pink going to match her pastel pink? Don’t let that add another stress into the equation!
Communicate, Get Out There & Whisk Away Those Worries!
The people you meet in college are really some of the best friends you’ll have for the rest of your life. Don’t worry – you’re going to have a great time. Embrace and enjoy every bit of it. 🙂