For those of us who didn’t grow up sharing a bedroom with a sibling, one of the more exciting parts of the transition to college is the thought of sharing a microscopic living space with a complete stranger. Surprisingly enough, however, your university is not going to sift through thousands of students to pair you with your perfect roommate and new best friend. Even after freshman year, when you begin choosing your own roommates, you’ll quickly discover that as much as you love your “besties” that you chose to live with, their night terrors can get pretty annoying. When you finally realize that even your best friend can be a terrible roommate, there are still ways to cope:
A lesson I’ve learned is that despite how “chill” someone may seem in a social setting, many people can be pretty unreasonable. This past year, as a junior, I chose to live in a quad in my fraternity house that was roughly the size of the small single I had had the previous year. One of my three college roommates insisted that he would be unable to wake up unless he had natural light shining on his face each morning. Instead of spending the year waking up at sunrise, we articulated to him that, because college is a time for experimentation and stepping out of your comfort zone, perhaps he could try waking up with an alarm clock like normal people do. This kind of open communication worked well for us since we were all good friends and were always willing to call one another out. Even if you do not know your roommates as well as I did, it is still a good idea to sit down with them and talk about each other’s expectations for the year.
But just when you think you’ve addressed everything with your roommates, a new situation will present itself. During finals this past semester, I was foolish enough to think I could study peacefully in the quad during the day while everyone else was in the library. Then came the familiar sounds of my roommates chasing a squirrel around the hallway with umbrellas and pool cues (our house is very old and run-down, so birds and squirrels can often sneak in through holes in the roof). This didn’t seem like the appropriate time to speak with them about what “study time” should be versus “squirrel-chasing time” in the room, so I just bounced. Distancing yourself is often a better option than wasting time handling an extreme situation. You will be much more productive if you know when to cut your losses and change locations.
Finally, I learned one of the more important lessons after breaking my leg sophomore year. It is hard to distance yourself when you can’t walk, but even if you can walk, sometimes there is something to be gained from just giving in. While the weekends were some of the most memorable times of college for me, I’ll look back just as fondly at the times I spent staying up for hours on a Monday night proofreading a letter my roommate had written to the Tostitos headquarters about how they need to design a salsa jar that doesn’t get salsa on your fingers. I can’t think of anything that will contribute less to me achieving my career goals, but sometimes that’s not the most important thing in the world. Skipping one night of studying won’t break you; join your noisy and nocturnal college roommates every once in a while.