You meet a lot of people when you start at university, but there is one (or sometimes two or three) in particular that can end up having the biggest impact on your life: your roommate. You share your room, your space, and essentially, your life with this person. They inhabit the space beside you for almost an entire year, and are subject to dealing with any aftermath caused by your mood, your classes, your relationships, and your life. Sometimes, you’re lucky to have a roommate with which things just work. More often though, you have to work at your relationship with your roommate in order to have a peaceful living environment. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make living with your roommate a fun experience.
Get to know them
This one should be obvious, but you should take the time to get to know your roommate. Bonding with your roommate is important for a few reasons. First of all, getting to know your roommate helps you establish some things in common and perhaps could even provide the foundation for a friendship.
Secondly, getting to know your roommate helps you understand what matters to them – and this translates into what type of roommate they will be. If your roommate really values getting good grades and being successful in school, you might learn that they plan on spending a lot of time in the library or that they have early classes, which means they want a quiet room and they’ll go to bed early. If your roommate is involved in a lot of clubs and has an active social life, that might mean they will want to have friends over in the room or that they might be up late getting back from their activities. This allows you to understand their motivations and why they might behave the way they do. Finally, getting to know them also just allows you to feel comfortable living with them, especially given that your room should be a space where you can decompress and do what you want, without judgment.
Set ground rules
Once you’ve gotten to know your roommate, you should feel comfortable enough to discuss some guidelines and ground rules for your room. What this means is that you’ll establish some boundaries regarding what is allowed or not allowed in your room.
For example, one area to discuss might be room cleanliness and how you want to share responsibility for keeping the space neat and clean, if that’s something that’s important to you. Maybe you decide to clean the room every week or every other week, but you both should acknowledge and agree to the terms. Another area to discuss might be how many nights per week you could have visitors – or overnight visitors. If you’re uncomfortable having guests sleep over in the room, then that should be established at the beginning of the semester.
Setting these terms now ensures fewer conflicts and prevents future ones – and unpleasant conversations or confrontation – throughout the year as they come up because you can return to your original conversation. It also helps to write your roommate guidelines out, so that you can refer back to them if one of you violates them.
Address problems as they come up
When you or a roommate does break one of the rules you established earlier in the semester, address it immediately. Don’t let problems pile up without addressing them. For example, let’s say your roommate had a guest over without asking permission, violating one of your previously agreed-upon rules. Don’t wait a few days to bring it up to your roommate. At that point, it becomes less relevant and causes you to dwell on the problem, potentially making you more upset. By bringing it up quickly, you allow your roommate the opportunity to explain and apologize, and coming to a resolution.
At the same time, you should also consider whether something is worth bringing up. If your roommate breaks one of your mutually agreed-upon rules, that’s worth bringing up. However, if your roommate does something that annoys you or is unpleasant – or if he or she breaks a rule but you know there were extenuating circumstances – consider whether it’s worth addressing through a confrontation. Remember that they are a person too, and they deserve compassion and understanding just the same. Ultimately, it’s always important to communicate with your roommate, and make sure that you both understand the other’s motivations and reasons.
Make friends with other students
This might seem like a strange thing to add to this list, but expanding your circle of friends beyond your roommate will actually help your relationship with your roommate. Why is that? Well, you already live with your roommate, so they are subject to dealing with the ups and downs of your life as you do, even if you aren’t always sharing it with them. You need time with other friends to give your roommate some space. When you spend too much time with someone, you can be more likely to get into arguments or pick up on annoying habits.
By spending time with other friends, you and your roommate both get some time apart and can recharge before sharing your space again. This doesn’t mean that you and your roommate can’t spend a lot of time together – inside and outside of the room – but it just allows you both to develop fulfilling and meaningful relationships with other people who can add to your ability to be a better friend and roommate to each other.