You Can’t Always Put the “Mate” in “Roommate”

The day finally arrived when I received a letter in the mail that answered the burning question I had in the back of my mind as of late:

Who would be my roommate at college?

After submitting a roommate questionnaire containing my interests, hobbies, and lifestyle preferences, I had hopes that this would be the key to unlocking a new friendship the moment that I arrived on campus.

Once I found out the name and number of my roommate-to-be, I decided to text her and introduce myself. I was also curious to know what she would be bringing on campus in case there were any items that she needed me to pack for us to share.

My roommate seemed rather nice at first, but there’s only so much you can tell about a person through text messages. The moment we started talking about our dorm room, she suggested lofting our beds and instantly claimed the bottom bunk. I didn’t have a preference and was happy with taking the top bunk. She seemed so concerned with what she wanted and didn’t ask me very many questions about what I thought. I should have taken this as a warning sign.

When move-in day arrived, I entered my two-person room to find out that my roommate arrived early. She had completely taken over the majority of the space and moved everything around to how she wanted it, leaving me with only my desk, closet, and bed unoccupied.

roommates3On top of that, she had already started decorating the room with lots of pink items without my approval, and pink is definitely not a favorite color of mine. It was as if she was living in a single room, and I was just a guest for the weekend.

Was I going to have to deal with this all year? 

I tried to stay positive, reassuring myself that maybe I was making a bigger deal out of this than I should have.

Within a week or so, I had been the victim of many roommate-related crimes:

  • An umbrella and dirty dishes left on my desk
  • Waking up numerous times to the sounds of repetitive ringtones that went off every time she received calls or texts
  • A passive-aggressive note on my laptop asking me to vacuum my hair off the floor.

It wasn’t the reason for the note that bothered so much as the fact that I had just passed her in the hallway on the way to my room right before I saw it. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t just tell me right then or wait until later to tell me about it in person.

Besides the aforementioned incidents, I realized my roommate and I had other differences. She was a morning person, and I was a night owl. She was also a neat freak, and I’m not exactly what you call Mary Poppins. We lived together, yet we hardly talked to each other. I knew that lasting a whole year with her simply wasn’t going to work.

I contacted my area hall director to ask him if I could move in with another girl who I seemed to get along with. Coincidentally, my roommate talked to the resident assistant on my floor about moving out. We clearly both realized that we couldn’t live with each other. Since I contacted someone first, I was able to move out of the room and into another environment that made the rest of the year more bearable.

Here are a few lessons I learned from this situation:

  • Don’t expect your roommate to be 100% compatible with you. You both might have listed “music” and “watching TV” as your favorite interests, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be best friends. Being more specific with your interests (for example, saying that you love baseball rather than just sports) might help you get a roommate with more common interests, but it’s not guaranteed.
  • Communicate with your roommate prior to moving in. Texting is probably not the best way to find out what your roommate is bringing on move-in day. Give them a phone call instead. This will not only allow you to better introduce yourself to them and understand their tone of voice, but it’ll give you a clearer understanding of who is bringing what. If possible, try to make the contributions equal.
  • Keep in mind you’re not the only one living in the dorm room. Make sure that the space you share is equal, and that your roommate is okay with the way the furniture and other living necessities are arranged.
  • Establish some sort of guidelines between you and your roommate (no loud music after 6:00 for study time), and inform them of any information you think they should know about (snoring). Also, let them know if a significant other or friends are going to be in the room so they’re not caught off-guard.
  • Acknowledge when it isn’t going to work. If you feel that you are unable to live with your roommate due to whatever reasons, contact your resident assistant, area hall director, or the housing office to find out how to move into a different room or residence hall. Nipping the problem in the bud as soon as possible is most beneficial.
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Britni Roberts

Britni Roberts

Britni Roberts is a senior at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois pursuing a degree in English Writing. She has been an Editor for the North Central Kindling humor magazine, Assistant News and Arts Editor for the North Central Chronicle newspaper, as well as a DJ and Rock News Reporter for WONC-FM 89.1, her college’s radio station. She enjoys listening to music and spending time with her friends, boyfriend, and his cat Willow.

2 Responses to “You Can’t Always Put the “Mate” in “Roommate””

  • Heidi Meier

    Heidi Meier on June 23, 2013

    First of all, I am so sorry! Your experience sounds like a nightmare. Unfortunately, I’ve heard similar stories far too often. I think your recommendations are really great. From my experiences, I’ve learned that the most important factor in a successful roommate situation is communication. If an issue arises, it is best to address it in a prompt and immediate fashion. The number one mistake I’ve seen friends make is ignoring lifestyle differences because they feel ‘mean.’ In the end, this leaves roommates feeling disconnected and sometimes even angry! I also think that it is really important to identify when I situation isn’t working for you. If you are having trouble during your first week living together, chances are the problems will become more serious and sometimes even traumatizing. Your number one priority should be making sure you are living in a safe and healthy environment, as your grades and mental health may suffer if you don’t. Roommate differences are a common source of conflict, and these tips are very helpful and applicable ways to approach a solution.

  • Megan Heneghan

    Megan Heneghan on August 11, 2013

    I experienced a similar situation my freshman year in the dorms. I did have roommate issues that I was not prepared for, and this is really good advice on how to deal with differences and conflicts you will most likely go through during freshman year. Open communication is extremely important in order to establish ground rules for the room as well as resolve any conflict in a civilized manner. Problems may arise, but simply talking to your roommate about your issues will create a better relationship between both of you.

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