Roommate Knowledge


As if there weren't enough to think about starting college - classes,syllabi (huh?), wireless access,

LL Bean slippers or flip-flops - on top of everything else you're going to have a roommate; most of you,for the first time. It's pretty exciting. But also kind of scary.

Sure you can check each other out on Facebook and figure out who's bringing what and text about COOT trips and First Class assignments. But still...right?

Okay, take a deep breath. It's all good. People have been doing the college roommate thing for a really long time - way before X-Boxes and cable television in every room - so the odds are with you. And, even if the comforts of technology and history were not enough to help you to rest easy, you can add to the list of advantages you have in entering into your first college roommate experience the wisdom and sage advice that I am about to impart on you.

There are essentially five types of roommate relationships you can have.

They are:

1. BFF ROOMIES - The BFF roomie is the one that most people privately fantasize about even if they're not sure they actually want it. This is the rare lightning strike of first-year housing fortune where the confluence of well-executed housing forms, outstanding work by the Campus Life staff, and good karma come together to land you in a second floor double with your dorm living soul-mate. The ideal college companion who instantly becomes your best friend, counselor, and confidant. The ying to your yang. Robin to your Batman. Peanut butter to your jelly. From your first Facebook encounter to delivering the all-knowing, hilarious toasts at each other's weddings yours is a story of matching comforters, similar sleep patterns, and happily shared tubes of toothpaste.

2. DR. JEKKYL AND MR. HYDE - One day he's your best friend and the next you never want to see him again. On her Jekkyl days you go to meals together, talk about classes, share the brownies your mother sent from home and generally get along in every way imaginable. When Mr. Hyde rolls out of bed you would pretty much rather have a root canal than spend one more minute in the presence of the sorry excuse for a human being that is your roommate. On the upside, you get the benefit of having both an occasional BFF roomie as well as incentive to branch out and meet other people. On the downside, your life can be a little volatile and unpredictable.

3. THE COPACETIC COUPLE - You do your thing she does hers. He doesn't let his friends mess with your stuff when you're out of the room and you try not to wake him up if you're coming in after he's gone to bed. If you're going to dinner at the same time you go together. But for the most part you march to the beat of different drummers. You are friendly and respectful of each other but happily lead separate lives in shared space.

4. ROOMMATE? WHAT ROOMMATE? Both occupants of your room pretend that the other doesn't exist. You come and go from classes and practices and parties,stepping over one another's discarded sweatshirts and dirty underwear (the people who are this sort of roommate are always messy) and pass in the hall on the way to and from the shower utterly oblivious to each other. On the rare occasion that one of your hall-mates steps into the demilitarized zone that is your room when you are both there, each of you carries on a separate, completely unrelated conversation with her, totally ignoring the parallel conversation of which you are not a part when it is taking place.

For the most part, you hang out in your other friends' rooms and nobody comes to visit you except when your roommate is away for the weekend.

5. VOLDEMORT AND LUCIFER - Yeah, you really don't want any part of this one. It's hard to study for calculus with hellfire burning all around you and the Dark Lord plotting his revenge against the boy who lived from the top bunk. The most important thing to know about this one is it is never just one person's fault. This kind of destruction can only be caused by equally culpable purveyors of malice. So, if you make a reasonable effort to be nice and show respect to your roommate you will never find yourself in this sort of dysfunctional bastion of yuck. Besides, I checked with the Admissions Office and it turns out that neither Voldemort nor Lucifer got in this year. They're going to Amherst. (That was just a joke.)

Seriously, nobody's roommate situation can be boiled down to some silly one-dimensional stereotype. As with most personal relationships, you and your roommate are likely to have good days and less good days. My best advice is this:

COMMUNICATE. Almost all roommate conflicts stem from something small (roommate A leaves his dirty socks in the middle of the floor) that goes unaddressed because people convince themselves it's not worth making an issue of. But when the problem doesn't just magically go away it starts to fester and grow (like the pile of smelly socks on the floor). Eventually it moves from the failed Ignore It strategy to the much worse Passive Aggressive approach (roommate B starts putting his dirty socks on roommate A's pillow) which only succeeds in making everybody angry until the inevitable blow out occurs at which point a friend or your CA or someone from Campus Life gets involved and makes you talk about whatever is making you nuts. So it's best to save everyone the aggravation and just talk to your roommate about issues and concerns you have as they arise.

PRACTICE EMPATHY. Put yourself in your roommate's shoes and treat him/her the way you want to be treated (sound familiar?).

COMMUNICATE. Really. If you like to listen to music while you study and your roommate wants quiet, talk it out. Decide if you are going to share snacks or if all food is privately owned. Determine if you are comfortable sharing wardrobes (ask before you borrow that sweater, fella!). Make clear if you are cool with your roommate using your Playstation when you're not around. When is it okay to have friends in the room? Whose turn is it to vacuum (yes, you do need to vacuum the room from time to time)? Figure these things out and then respect the rules you establish together.

WHEN IN DOUBT ASK YOUR COMMUNITY ADVISOR (CA). They've been there before. They care about you. And, they want to help.

BE MAGNANIMOUS. Compromise. Remember, it's just as much your roommate's room as it is yours. You want your Justin Bieber poster next to the window. Your roommate wants his dogs playing poker there. Work it out. Bieber in the fall, pooches in the spring.

OH YEAH, COMMUNICATE. Did I say that already?

It's going to be fine. Having a roommate is an important life experience and a lot of fun. College is a big adventure. It's good to go share it with someone.

Jim Terhune
Dean of Students

NOTE: For more information about housing and rooming contact the Office of Campus Life (207-859-4280)