“Dear Brooke, I’ve always had a room to myself. What are some tips on living with a roommate at school?”

With all of the excitement there is to becoming an incoming college student, there are also some factors that many dread in the days leading up to move in; one of the strongest contenders: living with a roommate. Similar to many other Stags, I have fortunately never had to share my room with anyone besides during the occasional sleepover or vacation hotel room. I was accustomed to my personal space, organization and closet space for one, making the transition somewhat irritating (yet totally understandable). Now that I am awaiting my third year at Fairfield, where I have shared a small cubicle with another girl for two school years, I have found along the way some tips and tricks to make the experience more bearable and less overwhelming for those of you who are new to this journey.

Setting Boundaries 

Something interesting about Fairfield University is that every single first-year student is paired randomly with another Stag depending on your roommate quiz (which you should have already submitted). Based on the answers you gave regarding your living habits, the system selects another student with whom you will ideally share the same standards and expectations. I think that while this process can be a little nerve-wracking, it is a wonderful opportunity to meet someone out of circumstance and you may even find that their friends are ones to add to your “inner circle” as well. Once you receive your email informing you of your roommate’s name, they also give you their email and phone number. From there, I would suggest sending a friendly message and try to get to know each other before the first day of school. Although gas prices are not ideal currently, if they aren’t too far away, you may even be able to meet up with them! With my first year roommate, we texted back and forth about our dorm room decorations and FaceTimed for an hour one night to settle our nerves and get to know one another. Once I saw her in person, I already felt at ease about sharing a room with her since I had spoken to her before. 

In the first few weeks on campus, your Residence Assistant will hand out a roommate contract where you will need to discuss and fill out a form together about visitors, sleeping habits and more. At the bottom, you will sign the form together and turn it back into your RA, so that if a problem arises during the semester, you can refer back to the contract you both agreed on. I would say it is essential to take this seriously so that these ideals are set into motion as soon as possible. My first year, I didn’t fill this out with my roommate at the time, and I found myself regretting it weekly. I felt afraid to ask her to do something because I didn’t want to come across as bossy or bothersome. I knew that if I had that serious conversation with her at the beginning of the year, it would have been a lot easier to know that she already agreed. This proved to be true when I made sure to complete this form with my three roommates the following year and ran into no problems that we previously discussed.

Communication

Overall, while you share a room with another person, your room should still be your safe space and the fear of confrontation shouldn’t stop you from achieving it. This is why an open conversation is always a necessity when something is bothering you. If I am being honest, it would be silly to say that the person you will live with will never get on your nerves. Even if they turn out to be your best friend, there will at least be one or two things that will aggravate you to no end. Maybe they don’t leave the room as much as you would like or they are the type of person to set an alarm at 7 a.m. and sleep through it until you throw a pillow to finally wake them up. Brushing over these issues will not help in any way, it will only lead to built-up resentment and possibly lead to a future blow-up argument when the other person was unaware that these things were something that bothered you. So instead of bottling up your feelings, I strongly urge you to take a breath and have a calm conversation. There is no harm in politely asking your living partner for some extended alone time or finding a different system to wake them up once and for all.

Being Courteous

In the end, having a good outcome to living with a roommate comes down to  remembering the golden rule we all learned in kindergarten: treat people how you want to be treated. If you’re having trouble pinpointing what this may consist of, some general tips I have accumulated over my time sharing limited space have come down to a blunt and self-explanatory list: 

  • Wear headphones when you are watching television, listening to music or are watching a lecture when they are in the room. I’ll admit that I lost my AirPods halfway through the year this past semester, so I had my volume on the lowest setting possible out loud, but I always asked my roommate if it was distracting in any way and she would usually say I was fine.
  • Gently close their cabinets or door early in the morning. No one wants to be woken up by the sound of you leaving for your 8 a.m.s; you signed up for that, not us. Twist those knobs and slowly release, people!  
  • Keep the room smelling clean. I cannot stress this enough: take out the trash, wash your dirty clothes often, put your smelly shoes in a container and check the fridge for expired food weekly. You will be living in a very small box, and the slightest thing will turn your air very heavy, very fast. (Side note: My roommates and I preferred keeping our window open to circulate fresh air, which helped a lot).
  • Leave the room for an extended phone call. There are hallways, lounges, kitchen spaces, bathrooms, stairwells…even outside if it’s not raining! Another option would be to even warn your roommate that it might take a while to chat and you want a private space to speak to them. Then, it will be up to the person if they don’t mind listening or they can venture off to the library of BCC.
  • Ask before inviting people over. Most of the time, your roommate should be okay if someone is coming over to hang out. But it is considerate to ask or even give them a heads up when people come into your room. This will give them time to lock away any personal items or tidy up or find another place on campus to hide out if they need space to study or do homework. 
  • Knock. Yes, it sucks to have to knock on your own door to come in, but I think not potentially walking in on someone changing and revealing them to the entire hallway will make up for it.

While this may seem like you are “walking on eggshells” in your own room, you must remember that it is also your roommate’s space as much as it is yours. Your time will come when you are able to have a single room again, but in the meantime, follow this guideline and remember to be patient. 

Are you seeking any advice? Email Brooke at brooke.lathe@student.fairfield.edu or direct message our Instagram @fairfieldmirror to be featured!

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