Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

Secrets to Living With a Roommate

Melissa Layton
October 4, 2015

The transition to college life isn’t easy. You encounter a new environment, harder classes, independence from parents, and a completely different lifestyle compared to when you were in high school. However, one of the biggest adjustments I — and probably most other students — had to make was learning to live with a roommate. So far, I’ve had pretty good experiences with roommates, but I know some of my friends have endured terrible roommate relationships. Drawing from their insights and from what I’ve learned personally, I’ve realized that by following some guidelines, you can make the most of your rooming arrangement.

Take initiative

Living with a roommate in college can be strange and uncomfortable at first, but remember that both of you feel this way. Your roommate likely also has concerns about college and whether the two of you will get along, so take initiative and start a conversation. Ask about your roommate’s hometown or find out more about his or her interests. After all, you might as well try to learn more about this other person who will be sharing a room with you for the rest of the academic year. I also highly recommend contacting your roommate ahead of time through email or Facebook once you find out who he or she is. This gives you a chance to plan out your room together and maybe even discuss some of the particulars about what you expect from one another.

Set boundaries

To live happily with your roommate, you MUST set boundaries and follow the rules that you both establish. I realize the roommate agreement your community advisor (Kenyon's version of a resident advisor) hands you may seem optional and like a waste of your time, but trust me, there are some important questions in there that you may not have thought to ask each other. Plus, completing the roommate agreement gives you an excuse to discuss the topics you may not know how to bring up, such as when friends can come to the room, how to ask for the room when you want some alone time, or how you feel about having a significant other come over. Taking the time to set these boundaries will ensure that you and your roommate know right away what you are and are not comfortable with in the room. 

Be honest

Honesty is crucial to a healthy, happy roommate relationship. If your roommate upsets you or something happens that you are not comfortable with, talk about it. He or she may not even know you’re upset, so being honest will allow you to voice your concerns in a firm but still considerate manner. Likewise, make sure to be open to your roommate’s honesty. You both share the room, and if something you do upsets him or her, be receptive to your roommate’s requests.

Support each other

Whether or not you are friends with your roommate, you can still maintain a good relationship with him or her by attending campus activities together, going to his or her performances, or even listening to your roommate vent about annoyances in his or her life. Feeling supported by the person you live with makes it easier to enjoy being in the room. Offering reassurance to your roommate when he or she needs it will strengthen your relationship and may even encourage your roommate to be there for you when you’re the one who needs to vent.

Find some alone time

Spending time with anyone 24/7 will drive you crazy, so before you reach that point of no return, seek some alone time. Ask your roommate if he or she could give you the room to yourself for a couple hours, or head out and go for a walk around campus. If what you really need is just some time away from your roommate, hang out with friends and take a trip off-campus. You’ll feel refreshed after a few hours away from each other. 

Remember the good things

When you’re having a really rough day and find yourself desperately wishing you lived in a single, try to remember the good things about your roommate. Think about that great conversation you two had when you stayed up until 2 a.m. talking, or remember your shared love of Sherlock. If you don’t have any of these happy memories to draw from but still have a fairly good relationship with your roommate, remind yourself that rooming with him or her allows you to save LOTS of money. You’re a broke college student; being able to save a couple thousand dollars by simply living with someone else will make you more willing to overlook some of your roommate’s more annoying habits.

 Be friendly ... even if you’re not best friends

Some people will find that the first person they room with becomes one of their best friends, but this is by no means the case for everyone. Even if you don’t really like your roommate, however, make an effort to be friendly. It’s important to maintain a good relationship with him or her because no one wants to feel unwelcome in his or her room.

If all else fails, talk to your community advisor

After talking to your roommate about any conflicts and trying to work things out between the two of you with no success, it’s probably best to bring in an outside person. You have a right to feel safe and comfortable in your room, and Kenyon Housing and Res Life doesn’t want you to feel miserable in your dorm. Go to your CA to express your concerns. He or she may have some advice or may even suggest roommate mediation, a meeting where you and your roommate discuss your living situation with your CA acting as mediator. Either way, you’ll find out how to best approach the situation, and you’ll reach some type of compromise between you and your roommate, whether it be a more defined set of boundaries or a new rooming arrangement.