Finding and creating lasting memories with your roommate(s) is one of the most exciting parts of college. During a pandemic, it is especially important to be cautious about whom you decide to cohabit with. Roommates can make or break your experience. Murky boundaries can lead to unpleasant exchanges. Based on our own highs and lows, here are tips for choosing a roommate or getting along better with current ones, and a sample roommate contract for you both to talk through!
Between attending Zoom lectures and juggling assignments, some college students may understandably fall behind on self-care or chores. Yet, with the pandemic still at the forefront of our lives in New York City, it is vital to find a roommate who maintains personal hygiene and follows necessary health precautions. You will spend the majority of your downtime with them and likely share a bathroom, so it is important to make sure that you are on the same page when it comes to issues of personal hygiene. Daily habits of wearing a mask, sanitizing, washing hands, and more are vital to prevent catching COVID-19. When talking to a potential roommate, you should ask them what precautions they are taking against COVID-19 and how often they plan on cleaning your apartment and socializing.
Schedules (Sleeping and studying)
When finding potential roommates, check if their active hours are in sync with yours. A night owl living in the same space as an early bird can be extremely disruptive for both parties. Put your schedules together and see what it would be like to live together. Having a dysfunctional sleep schedule is not ideal—it can lead to severe mood swings, lack of energy, and overall crankiness—all of which can result in heightened conflict and longer days for the both of you. Regardless of if you have separate bedrooms or share one, it may still be wise to consider this factor, as late night and early morning activities can still disturb the quality of your rest. “Early” and “late” are relative descriptions that can differ widely from person to person—make sure that you and your potential roommate are on the same page and that they would be a good match for your rhythm. Make it clear that you both have to be respectful of each other’s time!
Social tendencies (Introverts vs. Extroverts)
What do you like to do in your downtime? This is a good question to ask potential roommates. Besides living habits, personality traits also play a huge role in determining your compatibility with your roommate. Overall, finding someone with similar social tendencies as yourself can prevent many potential conflicts. However, if you do find yourself with a roommate you don’t quite mesh with, it’s a good idea to talk it out and agree to settle on a compromise that you both find acceptable.
Rooming with close friends?
Even though movies and TV shows love depicting roommates as best of friends, the reality of the situation is often very different. Being friends with someone doesn’t always mean that your living habits are the same. Living with them can put your relationship under a different kind of stress. If unexpected relationship issues arise between you and your roommate or in your mutual friend group, it might be quite emotionally draining to be trapped with them—oftentimes people need space to unwind and think things through. Living in close quarters without first establishing healthy boundaries could lead to a toxic turn in your friendship. Coming up with a clear plan preemptively to de-escalate situations or resolve conflicts when they arise is a must.
Learn about new cultures
Living with a roommate from a different country is the perfect opportunity to learn about other cultures. Whether it’s habits like taking your shoes off at the door or learning new phrases, be accepting and open to trying new things. This could include trying new foods, listening to new music, or finding different forms of entertainment. Be respectful and enjoy the perks that come with meeting people of all different backgrounds at Columbia. Additionally, make sure you explain any dietary or health restrictions you have—especially allergies.
Here is a sample roommate contract to help you set guidelines:
Make sure to cover your bases and make any adjustments to our contract if necessary. Additionally, we recommend printing out separate copies so that you can keep track of any different preferences.
Don’t forget that compromise is a two-way street!
Both you and your roommate are individuals with different personalities, interests, goals, likes, and dislikes. It’s the small things that generally lead to problems, and learning to accept each other’s differences without infringing upon one another’s freedom is an essential life skill. If conflicts arise, talk it out before they become major issues. Remember that your roommate is not the only person who is required to compromise. You’ll be sharing a space, which requires everyone involved to make necessary sacrifices to live comfortably with each other.
Staff Writer Swethaa Suresh has learned from her experience with a bad roommate, and is looking forward to implementing some of this advice. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Staff Writer Charlotte Wu enjoys having roommates and misses making memories with them. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.