Survive your roommate


Roommate: it’s a loaded word that can elicit a variety of emotions and memories, depending on who you ask. Some adore the roommates they’ve had. They come away from the living experience enriched and with an endless supply of fun memories. Then there are those like Virginia Commonwealth University junior Iva Radman, who works in the housing office at VCU and has heard every roommate horror story, from the serious and dramatic to the downright kooky. “Someone once called into my office and said, ’My roommate threw all my teddy bears out the window because she said they were radiating evil!’” Iva recalls with a laugh.

At least once in college you’ll have roommates who are paranoid about seemingly silly things, such as evil stuffed animals. Try to keep your cool and laugh it off. If it gets to the point where they’re being unreasonable, be the bigger person and initiate a conversation. Better to face the possibly of an awkward talk than find your stuff has gone mysteriously missing.

Sometimes you’ll have to share a space with someone completely different from you, with strange living habits. It’s crucial to approach these situations with tact. Keep in mind that first impressions stick, so it’s important not to be a jerk. “The first time I met my freshman year roommate he was naked. He was about to take a shower but had left the door partially open, and when I went inside, there he was in all his glory,” recalls Benjamin Paviour, a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis. When you’re faced with a less than ideal situation, communicate as nicely as you can. And always lock the bathroom door.

From a distance, tales of roommate quirks can be funny. But if you’re the one on the short end of the stick, these living situations can be a constant headache. While there’s no fail-safe way to ensure smooth sailing ahead, here are some more tips to make living with another person as stress-free as possible:

Most of the time roommate issues can be resolved by just telling the other person what’s on your mind. It’s a simple solution yet many worry about hurting the other person’s feelings or they just do not want to confront them. As a consequence problems are swept under the rug, without any satisfactory resolution. Instead of just saying, “It really bothers me when you play loud music in the morning,” people avoid the possibly awkward few seconds and endure it. What often results is resentment and a pattern of passive-aggressive behavior that doesn’t make anyone happy. If something truly irks you, speak up.

On the other hand, be aware that what may be a glaring problem or annoyance to you may not be so for your roommate. In any living situation it is best to be honest but also tactful and sensitive. Are you starting to detect a stench from the never-washed sheets on the other side of the room?  Next time you’re throwing your linens in the wash, invite your roomie to come along. If he or she still doesn’t bite, saying something seemingly lighthearted like, “I’ve heard clean sheets make you sleep better,” may clue them in to your concerns. 

Close living quarters mean lots of shared space. There’s no need to duct-tape off halves, but it might not be a bad idea to loosely designate which shelves belong to whom, whose towel rack is whose, etc. to avoid any misunderstandings or feeling of overstepped boundaries. Chances are these lines will become blurred, in which case, remain flexible. The part of the fun and challenge of living with others is stepping outside of your comfort zone.

College is unique in that it’s one of the few times in your life you’ll be able to live with many different people in a short amount of time. Unfortunately this can also mean being faced with horrible roommates where surviving can be a feat in itself. However bad the situation can get, keep in mind: it’s only temporary.