Living and Lifestyle
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Anxious to know who your future roommate(s) will be? For all you Columbia first-years, the wait won’t be much longer: Columbia ResLife confirmed to Spectrum that roommate assignments will be released next Friday, June 30. (Barnardigans, you’ll have to wait until Aug. 5, but at least you have plenty of time to catch up on your Required Reading and become an ace roomie.)

Whether you chose your roommate ahead of time or bravely decided to let Columbia/Barnard randomly choose, you still have to come to terms with the fact that you’ll be living with another human being—or two or three—for the next two semesters. This fact is hard to swallow for people who have had their own space for their entire life.

Your roommate is likely the first soul you’ll meet during NSOP and one of the people you’ll see most frequently throughout the year, so you’ll definitely want to get on their good side. Anticipating any tension between you two is key to keeping your relationship on good terms. Do you incessantly press your snooze button? Do you crunch loudly on cereal in bed while your roomie buries their head (and ears) under the pillows? These problems seem small, but they are actually significant (especially when early mornings are involved).

Here are the steps you need to take to get to know your roomie over the summer and lay down the ground rules before passive aggression (or just straight up aggression) arises over the year.

Tell them your honest sleep schedule and cleanliness habits right away

Those first few email/Facebook messenger exchanges to discuss sleep and cleanliness need to happen within the next few months, not on the first day of orientation. Don’t hide the fact that you prefer to stay up until 4 a.m. and wake up at 1 p.m., or that you need everything on your side of the room to be straight and orderly in order to focus. (If you did random selection, hopefully the ResLife quiz you took will weed out any incompatible souls, but you never know.)

For example

If your new roommate knows you are a night owl from the start, they won’t be shocked (or worry about you too much) when you’re sneaking in way after they have gone to sleep. On your side of the relationship, you’ll also remember to be courteous, quiet, and not bring back any friends at that hour—just as their cereal crunching will bother you at 10 a.m., you and your friend’s laughter will bother them at 2 a.m.

If something bothers you, tell them politely but clearly

There is nothing worse than having to bottle up your feelings toward your roommate. If there is something they do that already annoys you at the beginning of the year, you need to let them know. Tone here is super important though—coming off like you’re annoyed with them isn’t productive because they’ll feel like it’s a personal attack. At the same time, you don’t want to sugarcoat the issue and make it seem like it isn’t important—you may run the risk of them not taking your concerns seriously.

For example

If your roommate has woken you up for the past three nights at 3 a.m because they slammed the door on their way in from the library, ask them to be more quiet next time because you need your sleep.

This is a small issue that should be pretty easy for them to fix, but if you’re ever confronted with a more touchy subject, the same method applies.

For example

Your roommate has brought home their significant other and you’re not completely comfortable with it. When you two are alone (so no friends or SOs over), voice your concern firmly—but not harshly or like your needs are more important—and explain why. They might be upset for the first few days, but if your tone is neither accusatory nor demanding, and if you calmly explain why their behavior is bothering you, they should be able to understand where you’re coming from.

Note: Things like sleep schedule and cleanliness habits should definitely be discussed before coming to campus. More touchy subjects (think: letting guests stay over, allowing parties in the dorm, etc.) also need to be discussed, but it’s better to wait and do this in person. (In fact, most RAs will designate time for this so you don’t have to feel super awkward bringing it up.)

Be open to compromise

Making compromises along the way will help you ensure your roommate(s) are comfortable and content in their living space. (There’s nothing that affects the mood worse than being unhappy in one’s own home.) In the case of roommates, you have to give a little to get something in return.

For example

If you’re lucky, you’ll do a chore and they will return the favor without hesitation. If this doesn’t come so easily with your roommate, set up a cleaning schedule that splits up the chores equally. It doesn’t have to be a color-coded chart hung on the wall for all visitors to see, but figure out a system that works for the both of you. Sometimes, even a conversation will suffice.

Say thanks when thanks is due

Being kind is the best tactic for getting along with your roommate. When they do a chore, notice their contribution and thank them for doing so. Expressing gratitude shows you appreciate their effort and will reinforce their behavior. (Shout out to that little gem I learned in intro to psychology!)

For example

It sounds obvious, but when you notice that your roommate has taken out the trash, thank them for doing so. Easy! If you really want to get that wholesome, pleasant roomie living experience, you can then do a chore in return. (This will help you avoid having to set up a cleaning schedule as described in the previous section.)

Random acts of kindness go a long way

Doing something nice for your roommate can go a long way, even if it’s small. It can help reinforce your already-strong relationship, help build one that’s trying to grow, or if you’re not all that close, just give them a little pick-me-up if the week’s been rough.

For example

When you take out your trash, offer to take theirs as well. If you’re planning to run to the dining hall, ask if they want you to bring them back anything. There are tons of things you can do here. Even something as small as asking them how their test went can really do a lot for a roomie relationship. They will be thankful and may even return the favor later!

Actually spend time with them

Too many roommates just see each other in their dorms and don’t bother going out anywhere else. Unless you came to college already knowing some people, you might feel a little lonely those first few days, and since you and your roommate are pretty much forced to talk to one another, take advantage of that connection and really try to build a friendship with them. Trust us, it’ll make the whole living sitch much more pleasant.

For example

During NSOP, there will be some events you have to go to with your orientation group, but plenty of others where you can go with whomever you want. Plan some events where you two will meet up, such as the performance group showcase, or a trip down to Bed Bath & Beyond.

Both you and your roommate want to have a great first year at college, and the living situation you guys set up for yourselves can make or break that experience. Be clear, be open to compromise, and be yourself.

READ NEXT:

Concerned about living with a roommate? Read more about getting in good with them with this week’s Required Reading newsletter, or ask us your questions on our Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Isabella Monaco is a Spectrum staff writer and a Barnard sophomore. She got her first-year roommate through random selection and loved her! Shoutout to Kayla! Reach her (the writer, not Kayla) at isabella.monaco@columbiaspectator.com.

lifestyle roommates first-year required-reading dorms
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