Irina Fanarraga is an international student from Peru, currently in her senior year at Hofstra University. She is double majoring in Psychology and Criminology, with a minor in Dance. An Honors College student and a Phi Beta Kappa inductee, she hopes to continue on to graduate school to obtain a Masters in Forensic Psychology.
There are many things that can seem overwhelming about starting your first year of college. Being on your own, leaving your friends and family behind, having to meet new people, choosing your classes, getting used to a completely new setting… The list could go on! But for me, the prospect of having to live with a roommate stood out among the rest.
Whether you grew up as one of multiple siblings in the same house, or you grew up as an only child with your own room, the idea of sharing a tiny living space with another person can seem like quite a challenge. Nevertheless, like most things in life, reality is not as daunting as we make it up to be. Up next, I will go over some suggestions and tips that will hopefully help make having a roommate an enjoyable experience, if not one of the best things during your time at college.
Unless you have previously agreed to room with a friend of yours going to the same school (in which case, lucky you!), your first roommate will most likely be randomly picked. At some point before move-in day, your school’s housing department will send you your future roommate’s full name, as well as their contact information. This is where your Facebook skills will come in handy! Look them up and send them a message. Although you might feel unsure about initiating contact, just think that your future roommate is probably in the same boat and wondering if they should be the ones to contact you first.
A short, straightforward message will do the trick. Introduce yourself, tell them you know you will be rooming together and that you thought that starting to know each other a bit before you move in might be a cool idea. I think something as simple as exchanging messages can make this entire process a lot easier. Move-in day is stressful enough, so feeling at least a tad more comfortable with who you will be sharing a room can go a long way. You can even decide who will bring what to school, so you won’t end up with two mini-fridges and two TVs that would only take up unnecessary space (trust me, I’ve been there).
Even if the Facebook introductions went well, the first few days have the potential of being awkward, and that is completely normal. After all, you’re two people who haven’t met before, and are now living in the same small room, and sharing your personal space. The key here is communication. By talking to each other, and even playing games like 20 Questions, you might discover you have interests in common. And even if you don’t, you can both learn something new from each other. Being open to new perspectives and views is a great trait to have in college, as it might lead you to know or try something you haven’t before, and end up loving.
Be sure to create opportunities to spend time together. Usually, your first week at school will be packed with orientation activities all freshmen must attend. Why not propose you do lunch before going to a welcome week event? Or if you find that you have class at the same time (or even share one), why not propose walking to your class together? However, remember not to force things, but to just let them happen naturally.
One of the most useful tips I can give you is to set up room rules. Write them down if you have to. If your room has an in-suite bathroom that needs cleaning, write down a clean-up schedule with dates and names. Decide when and who will be in charge of taking out the trash, because believe me, it will fill up pretty quickly. If one of you has an early class, set a time when the lights in the room will go off. In time, clearly defined rules will save you so much time (and uncomfortable passive aggressiveness) over little things that could have been avoided had you set up ground rules from the start.
Finally, remember that it would be nice to become best friends with your first roommate, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen, and that is completely fine! You don’t have to be the best of friends, but at least live by the unwritten rules of common courtesy and mutual respect. Even if you decide not to live together after your first year, knowing you treated your roommate as you would like to be treated is a reward in itself.