Being a good roommate is easy: just be open


(Illustration by Jordan Mondell | Layout Editor)

There’s the roommate that has super loud FaceTime conversations with their significant other, the one who never showers and spews an unfavorable odor wherever they go, the one who is too clingy and over-involved in your life and the one that snores like a chainsaw or talks in their sleep through the night.

Nobody thinks they’ll be paired with one of these roommates. But even if you don’t come away with a horror story, living in a tiny dorm room with someone who may be a perfect stranger will certainly be challenging. But there are ways to make living with another first-year completely manageable.

One way is to ensure that you’ll have similar interests to them. Today, you can use your university’s class Facebook page to try to find a good match. Sometimes people will make posts that describe themselves, either seriously or not at all, but the goal is to find potential roommates who have similar interests, habits and goals as you. This can be a great tool to help minimize the shock that is inevitable when meeting a living partner for the first time.

Before I started my first year, I found someone on the Facebook page who I thought would be the perfect match for me. She was an athlete, a great student and she was even a homecoming queen. We chatted online and exchanged numbers. The more we talked to each other via text, the more I liked her. We seemed like we would be great roommates so we decided we would room together at Pitt.

For better or for worse, a Facebook timeline can only reveal so much. I found myself spending a lot of time with my roommate over the first few weeks of school, and noticed some tendencies of hers that really bothered me. But we couldn’t escape the fact that we were living together, and were with each other more than we were with anyone else.

What I needed to realize was that my roommate didn’t need to be my best friend — a common misconception among first-years. Sometimes, it’s better to just coexist. So I made it clear that we needed some social space between us, seeing as we couldn’t find physical space in our confined Towers dorm room.

As with any tepid relationship, there were tensions when I began branching out. But eventually, my roommate followed suit, and we were content with just being cordial roommates.

And that was another thing I needed to realize — the best way to approach the situation was to enter with an open mind. I learned that rigid expectations set you up for failure, and when it comes to roommates, you shouldn’t expect that you’ll be best friends. You can and should hope for the best, but there’s no need to be disappointed if there’s no spark.

Compromise is key not only in reconciling the quality of your relationship, but also in menial, day to day tasks. To achieve this type of compromise, you’ll want to have some crucial conversations early on into your relationship to make certain there are no major problems.

This starts with the obvious telling each other of your sleeping, eating and cleaning habits, and making a loose schedule for how often you will clean the room and what parts of the room each of you are responsible for.

You’ll want to figure out a system for a “lights out” time if one of you goes to bed earlier than the other. If one of you still needs to stay up to study, the dorms have study spaces and lounges that can be used at any time.

Like I experienced, there will inevitably be things about your roommate that bother you. As with any relationship, communicating these issues openly allows you to better mitigate arguments and disagreements. Though it may be difficult, the best way to deal with problems is to talk them out before they are magnified by unspoken disatisfaction.

Bringing up these tensions is awkward, just like everything else about college life at first. The campus, the room organization, the coursework — dealing with all of it is sometimes awkward at best, and anxiety-inducing at worst.

Intimate guests in the room will become another awkward subject if you don’t discuss them. My roommate and I followed a system of texting each other in advance if a guest was over. Systems sometimes fail though, and you must remember that in situations like these, everyone’s embarrassed — just forgive and try to forget.

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