Column: What We Can Learn from our College Roommates

By Grace Schneider, Staff Reporter

Roommates can make or break a college experience. 

While the majority of students on campus have their own room this year, a luxury that should not be taken for granted, there are some important experiences and lessons that can only come from sharing a living space with someone else. 

Whether you’re new to the dorm life, or you’ve had roommates since the beginning, we all know that they are one of the biggest fears when going to school. 

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Will they be messy or clean? Will you get along or will they leave noodles in your shoes? (Yes, this actually happened.)

I have seen them all. I’ve known the roommate that leaves food out for months, the roommate that has sex in the shared bathroom and I’ve had the roommate that leaves cute notes out before a big exam or stays up with me for hours talking. 

Despite roommates being one of the biggest fears as we start the new year, go into it with an open mind. Think of what the both of you can take away from your new room buddy and how they can help progress you further rather than saying: “I’m never having a roommate again.” 

Here are some of the biggest lessons I was able to take away from having a roommate and put into the “real world:”

Mutual respect

The most important point: mutual respect is the only way to have a good relationship with your roommate. 

At some point you may find yourself thinking “this is MY room, I’m not leaving.” But, let me tell you: Your roommate has probably thought the same.

You have to give a little and take a little, and be able to recognize that this room is as much your roommates’ as it is yours, and they have as much right to it as you. Mutual respect will always be the basis to having a respectful and good relationship with your roommate or suite mate. 

You will learn to appreciate having your own space

Whether you have the roommate that steals your shampoo and clothes, or the one that you’re best friends with, you will never take your privacy for granted again. 

Even if you love your roommate, there is something to be said about being able to come home and blare music without having to worry about disturbing someone else, or vice versa, to be able to sit in peace without wondering what time your roommate is going to walk through the door.

You learn to deal with people and all of their garbage

This is both literal and figurative. 

Our instincts are to remove ourselves from situations we don’t like or find uncomfortable, but in turn that removes us from an opportunity to learn how to deal with something we don’t care for. When you share a room with somebody, you learn a lot about them even if you never talk. You learn their schedules, their interests, and how they do things. I guarantee you that one, if not more, of these things will bother you. 

Having a roommate really makes you realize the importance of civility and working out problems. It helps you determine what is worth the talk and what is not, which helps you transfer those skills to the real world. In life, you can’t always control what someone does or leave the situation. 

There are so many different ways to do things

You came from one family where you learned to do things a certain way. 

You will see so many different strategies to tackle problems, whether it’s cleaning the bathroom or how to make ramen, believe it or not. 

It might irritate you, or it may be genius. But, either way, you will be introduced to so many new ideas from the people surrounding you. Be open to them, and don’t be too quick to judge. 

Actually form a relationship with your roommate/suite mate

 As an incoming freshman, this seems obvious, as they are one of the first people you will meet and have to become comfortable with. But, trust me when I say that it will pay off to put in the time to build a connection with your roommate or suite mate 

Your roommate will be the person that you have to come home to, essentially. The person you’re going to want to talk to when you have a bad day, the person you’ll want to hang out with when you’re sick and can’t go out, and your study buddy at 11 p.m. when you don’t want to go to the library. Your suite mate can very well be the same thing; they’re your next door neighbor and forming a good relationship with them as well as the rest of your floor will give you the community and support that you’re used to having from family and friends at home. 

This year, make a point to form that relationship with your suite mate. My roommate was the sweetest girl, but we never had that close of a relationship. We both made other friends and ended up spending most of our time sitting quietly when we were in our room together. We had some good times, but I definitely wish that we would have gotten closer.

There are so many more specific lessons that I could put in here, but in the end, it can all be summed up with that first rule: mutual respect. 

Take advantage of the space you have this year on your own, who knows when you’ll get it again. Just remember how much your previous roommates have done for you, whether for the best or the worst, and use one of the scariest parts of college as one of the biggest stepping stones as you make your way to being on your own.

Staff reporter Grace Schneider can be reached at [email protected].

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