So it’s your freshman year, and you’re sharing a small room with a stranger — things can get messy. Living with a roommate is new to most students, and will probably present unforeseen challenges. The summer after high school graduation, it seemed like everybody I knew had a roommate horror story to tell me. I was terrified of coming to school and being stuck with a crazy roommate — or worse, realizing that I was the crazy roommate. After living on campus with various roommates for two years, I’ve learned that living with a roommate can be difficult, but my advice for you is rather simple.
How to avoid being The Crazy Roommate:
1. Set boundaries. Sit down with your roommate and discuss basic rules. Have fundamental agreements from the beginning. These agreements could include a “lights out” time for school nights, and a policy on food sharing. Later on, if there are any problems, you can go back to those boundaries and say, “we agreed not to….”
2. Be honest and upfront about everything. If you are nocturnal, a chain smoker, a drinker or a neat freak — tell your roommate right away! You may want to make a good first impression, but if you aren’t open from the start, your roommate will find out the hard way that you have daddy issues, and that you don’t believe in the use of deodorant.
3. Be courteous. If you are planning on having guests or romantic interests come over, make sure it won’t disrupt your roommate. You may need to coordinate your schedules accordingly, but it will prevent unnecessary stress and awkward situations. Notice if your roommate is studying, and make the decision to Skype with your hysterical mother elsewhere. Use headphones for movies and music if your roommate is around.
4. Listen to your roommate. If your roommate voices concern about something, take immediate steps to adjust your behavior accordingly. Even if they aren’t vocal about their frustrations, you can probably tell when you’ve ticked them off.
5. Talk openly about any issues that come up. Ignoring an issue won’t solve it, so act like adults and talk about it. Revise boundaries or rules as needed. Passive aggressive remarks and dirty glances might not get your point across.
6. Be respectful. I know it sounds simple, but really just respect that your roommate has a right to enjoy their living space.
How to deal with The Crazy Roommate:
1. Find a refuge on campus. Find a stress-free environment where you can hang out, study, or just enjoy the non-crazy atmosphere. Befriend someone who has a futon — this can be particularly helpful if your roommate has frequent “sleepovers” with “friends.”
2. Buy noise cancelling headphones. Earplugs, too. You may not be able to ignore your Crazy Roommate all the time, but life will be much easier if you can’t hear them sing along to Lady Gaga’s latest hit. Earplugs are also great if your neighbors are voice majors.
3. Hide valuables. Know where your things are, and keep tabs on them. Keep your things and your food separate from your roommate’s. Don’t encourage your Crazy Roommate to steal by leaving your cash out in the open.
4. Get involved in a stress-relieving activity. Just because your roommate is crazy, that’s no excuse to physically assault them, so you will need to let that stress out somehow. Work out at the rec center, maybe take up boxing.
Even if you get stuck with a Crazy Roommate, don’t let that ruin your year. You can always talk to your RLA and try to get a different roommate. In a few years, you will have great stories about that one time your Crazy Roommate did that one thing. And cheer up, sophomore year you get to chose your roommate(s) — so if you get stuck with a crazy, you only have yourself to blame.