Haven. Sanctuary. Kingdom. It doesn’t matter what you call your room but, at the end of the day, it’s yours. You can paint the walls any color you want to, put up posters that represent things you like, blast your favorite music, and be as messy as you want to be. That is, if you’re not the kind of person who needs for things to be in a particular order.
The point is, our rooms belong to us and, for the most part, that means we don’t have to share our personal space (I feel sorry for those of you who have to share your room with siblings. I’m an only child). It’s a different story when you get to college, however. Not only will someone else be living a few feet away from you, but that someone will more than likely be a complete stranger.
That pretty much was what freaked me out when I got assigned my roommate. And it didn’t help that I had just watched The Roommate (Note: Do not under any circumstances watch this movie before starting school). After seeing that movie, I kept thinking about what kind of person my roommate would be. Among other things, I was afraid that she wouldn’t like me and that we’d have nothing in common. To be completely honest, I was just extremely nervous about the whole thing.
And I’m sure quite a few of you are too.
Sharing a room with a stranger is not easy but it’s not as hard as you think it is. Sure, you might not have anything in common with your roommate. Sure, you might find being in the same room with them to be extremely awkward the first couple of days. But all of that will pass. You just have to keep in mind that, just like you, your roommate is experiencing college for the first time, too. They probably have the same fears that you have about college and that, in an of itself, can be a good thing.
So why not work to find some common ground? You don’t have to be best friends with that person right away, but the truth about having a roommate is…there’s no avoiding them. It’s impossible to live with someone for eight or nine months and not talk to them. In fact, if you want to have a great relationship with your roommate, the best way to do that is to talk. It can be small talk at first. Ask about where they are from, what they plan on majoring in, what classes they’re taking etc. Chances are they came from a different country (my roommate freshman year was from China) or a city/state you’ve never traveled to. They might even have the same intended major as you or have a similar schedule. It doesn’t matter what questions you decide to ask but it is important that you get to know them. Trust me, it’ll make sharing a room with them a little easier.
Remember what I said about having your own room? Well, your dorm room is technically your personal space but it’s also the personal space of another person. While you can hang up posters and decorate your side of the room the way you want to, keep in mind that you shouldn’t blast music whenever you want to or turn on the TV when you’re roommate is trying to study. That’s not to say that you can’t do any of those things, but another truth about having a roommate is…you’re going to want to set some ground rules. It’s always good to sit down and talk about each other’s likes and dislikes, figure out who’s going to take out the garbage on what days, and if one (or the both of you) are in a relationship, ask if it’s okay to have your boyfriend or girlfriend stay over.
These are the kinds of things you might want to clear with each other if not the day you move in, then in the next few days to the first few weeks of school. If you don’t set some ground rules, then there’s no telling what you both like and dislike. So it’s better to hash that out sooner rather than later. I’ve seen quite a few people, my freshman year, change rooms because of issues with their roommates doing things they didn’t like i.e throwing dirty laundry on the floor. Yeah, if you’re not into that, you have to let your roommate know from the get-go otherwise they’re just going to continue to do it.
This brings me to my next truth about sharing a room with a stranger: if it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Talk to your RAs and ask them about how you can go about getting a different roommate. I’m not sure how it works on other campuses but at mine, I know that before ultimately deciding to go through with the change, you have a meeting with your roommate, the RA and a few other people to see if the problem is something that can be resolved. Whatever that process may be, just know that if you have a roommate who doesn’t have good hygiene or is outright rude, you don’t have to put up with it. Having a roommate can and should be a wonderful experience, so don’t settle for a horrible one.
Again, I have only known a few people who have had bad experiences with their roommates so the chances of you getting placed with one are very slim. Just start school with an open mind, talk to your roommate and remember that, while your room is your room, it’s your roommate’s room, too. You can both work together to make your room your haven, your sanctuary, your kingdom.
So, when you find out who your roommate is going to be, why not shoot them an email? It doesn’t have to be a long, overly excited one if you don’t want it to be. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple, “Hi, my name is…”
Don’t be a stranger!