Confessions of an RA: The Roommate Experience, Part I
An army of strange beasts plagues the college campus. They look like me and you. They take our classes. They play sports and join student orgs. They watch us when we sleep. Who are they? What are they? They are that special breed of creature, that mystifying beast, that merciless monster that has the power to make or break freshman year. They are The Roommates.
Living with a stranger can be one of the most challenging parts of freshman year. As an RA, I deal with roommate conflicts on a weekly, and often daily, basis. That being said, few people clash so much that it’s impossible for them to live together. Below are the three most common types of roommates residents complain about, as well as suggestions for how to improve life with these frustrating fiends.
1. The Slob: This roommate hasn’t seen the floor of your dorm since move-in day. In fact, she can’t remember whether the floor is made of carpet or tile. About a month ago, she misplaced her bed when getting dressed one morning. She's pretty sure it’s somewhere beneath the gym clothes she wore last week (but never washed) and those chicken bones left over from when you guys ordered wings during orientation.
Solution: Ask your roommate if she wants to join you once a week for an hour of tidying the room. If she doesn’t commit, go ahead and clean your side during the established hour, and when you’re going to toss your trash, politely ask if she needs anything thrown out. Your roommate will appreciate your respectfulness and likely return it in the future.
2. The Partier: The Partier puts Lindsay Lohan to shame. He stumbles in around 4:30 in the morning (not always alone), flicks on the light (because it’s not like you were sleeping or anything), bumps into his desk, knocks over his books, and then finally passes out on the floor because he’s too wasted to make it into his loft.
Solution: The Partier can be a really frustrating roommate to have, especially if you yourself aren’t a part of the drinking scene. The most important thing to remember, however, is that whether one or both of you drinks, you need to make sure that neither of you is pre-gaming in the dorm. Underage possession of alcohol (even if you’re not drinking when caught) is a serious offense and can get you kicked out of school.
Alcohol lecture aside, it’s important to have a conversation with your roommate after he’s sobered up. Though most college students who party do so in order to fit in or have a good time, many also party because they’re depressed or stressed and view drinking as a way out. As your roommate’s roommate, you’ll probably be able to sense which is the case. And even if you can’t, you can always ask your roommate to be a little quieter when he comes in, or at the very least, leave the overhead light off.
3. The annoyingly happy girl that loves her boyfriend “like, sooo much” and makes all the rest of us feel like we’re destined to a life of cat companionship and hairy upper lips: This breed of roommate is more commonly found on girls’ floors. She comes to college with a preexisting boyfriend and her one thousand pictures of him and considers it her moral duty to talk you through every single one of their excruciatingly cute memories. Before you know it, your room is covered in pictures of them making out, and you’re kept up at all hours of the night as they play the “No, you hang up” game on the phone.
Solution: First off, try to be happy for this poor Juliet. After all, she’s just excited, and your turn will come soon enough. If, however, Jules is keeping you up at night with her unceasing sonnet sessions with old Romeo, you need to deal with the situation. It doesn’t have to be awkward; try to play it off as if you’re sorry you have to be such a pain. For example, your conversation might go something like this:
You: “Hey, roomie, I’m really sorry, but I have a big Spanish test tomorrow—would you mind talking to (insert boyfriend’s name here) out in the hallway?”
Her: “Oh, Mylanta, girl! I’m sorry, I didn’t even realize! No problem!”
If this doesn’t work, let your RA know. You have a right to be able to study in your own room.
When living with a roommate during your college years, just remember one thing: it’s a roommate relationship, not a marriage. You don’t have to love each other to make it work. In the end, most roommate problems can be resolved with just a little bit of direct communication. If that doesn’t work, then talk to your RA. We’ve been through it before, and are always here to help.
Do you have any questions for Lindsay? Ask in the comments, or email firstname.lastname@example.org!