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Going to college often means not only moving from home; it means entirely new living arrangements with a stranger in many cases.
Regardless of whether or not a freshman knows the roommate, establishing ground rules and being considerate can go a long way to making the dorm experience enjoyable.
“I think the biggest thing is just to be aware of how your roommate likes things and what you expect in return,” Katie Meek, a Western Kentucky University student, said.
Meek, a 2010 Elizabethtown High School graduate, suggested incoming freshmen establish common ground on a number of issues, such as cleanliness, space, visitors, noise and lights, “to keep each other happy and prevent unnecessary disputes.”
Roommates should be respectful of each other’s spaces and be courteous about keeping their areas clean, whether the roommate is a stranger or a friend, Meek said.
“I think the best thing to do is ... go into it with an open mind and not too many expectations,” she said. “If you start barking orders about the way you want your room to be as soon as you get to school, things won’t start off smoothly.”
Murray State University student Stephanie Gregg, a 2010 Central Hardin High School graduate, cited open communication with roommates as an important factor in dealing with college living arrangements.
“If you talk to them about things that may bother you or annoy you, then it will be easier to work things out,” Gregg said, explaining her first roommate didn’t communicate much and left Gregg with no one to listen to her when she needed to talk. “Talking can work a lot of problems out and possibly gain you a lifelong friend.”
That communication can be key when dealing with the pros and cons of sharing a space.
According to www.onlinecollege.org, getting along with a roommate all boils down to communication and respect. Respecting a roommate’s differences but focusing on common ground is important, as is respecting space and personal belongings.
One way to get a head start is to get contact information about the roommate and make contact — by phone or in person, if possible — before the semester starts, the website says. Also, setting ground rules early is important.
When problems or concerns do arise, the website says, it’s best to address them immediately in a calm manner and in-person.
Gregg cited sharing a bathroom — specifically if other users are messy — as a disadvantage.
“It can get annoying having to clean up after someone else during all of your free time, when that time could be spent studying or doing something else,” Gregg said.
For Meek the worst part of sharing a room had more to do with physical area.
“The worst part of sharing a dorm is just the simple fact that it’s a tiny space for two people and a lot of stuff.,” Meek said. “Things can get crammed, and you can start to feel claustrophobic, but it’s all part of the deal.”
To avoid that sardine feeling, she suggested light packing when it comes to clothes and personal items.
On the plus side, a roommate means someone to vent to, get advice from and share expenses with, Gregg said.
“For me, the best part is always having my best friend around and always having her there to talk to,” Meek said.
The guideline of not living with your best friend is rumor that did not hold true in Meek’s case.
“My best friend and I decided to be roommates, and it’s the best choice we could have made,” she said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Even if the new roommate was a stranger to begin with, Gregg said, being open to meeting others can make all the difference in dorm life.
“For me, living in a dorm is like sharing a room with my best friend,” she said. “It can have its ups and downs, but overall it is nice to be able to go back to your room at night and just talk about all that has been going on.”
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or email@example.com.
More Student Help
High school graduates planning to go to college and wanting to get an idea of what to expect from dorm life and roommates might want to take a look at Harlan Cohen’s “Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College.” Now in its fourth edition, the book offers advice from students and insight from Cohen. Chapters span all aspects of college life, from start to finish, and address dorm life and roommates with chapters such as “Meet People Without Even Trying,” “The Ugly Side of Residential Life,” “The Best Friend Roommate,” “The Noisy, Naughty, and/or Nasty Roommate” and, of course, “The Naked Roommate.”
Cohen is the bestselling author of several books dealing with college life and has a nationally syndicated advice column, Help Me, Harlan! For more information, go to www.NakedRoommate.com.