By Kate Zydor
In the months leading up to my first semester at the College, I was concerned with my academic success and whether or not I would adjust well to living in a new environment far from home. However, whether or not my future roommate and I would be friends was the thought that burdened me the most.
Finding the perfect roommate is arguably the greatest source of stress for incoming college students. There is an immense amount of pressure surrounding choosing a person who will not only be compatible with your living habits but also become your instant best friend. We’ve all heard our fair share of horror stories about roommates gone wrong, and we place tremendous focus on ensuring that our experiences will be different.
I was fortunate enough to connect with my now roommate via Instagram before the housing selection process began. We met for coffee one afternoon and aside from hitting it off, we hashed out our concerns and agreed that we could see ourselves living together.
I am extremely grateful that we have developed a friendship that I would not trade for the world, but adjusting to each other’s presence was not without its obstacles. Living with another person who has their own routine and habits will never be easy at first.
With that being said, not all roommates are going to be best friends and that is okay.
Maybe you have found yourself in a living situation where you and your roommate have different ideas of what cleanliness means. Maybe you’re a night owl and she’s a “10 p.m. lights-out” person. Maybe he likes company all the time and you desperately need alone time. In these cases, there is no shame in moving out and changing your living situation.
However, what if your roommate is just that – a roommate? You’re not going to be the best of friends. You’re not going to hang out socially. You just live very well together.
I have seen firsthand that friends do not always make the best of roommates. Living with someone who you are already close with may reveal quirks about their personality that place a strain on the relationship. By building a roommate relationship from the ground up, and learning about both the person’s positive and negative attributes at the same time, you can make a true decision about whether or not you are compatible.
In college, you are confronted with a multitude of opportunities to branch out and expand your social circle. If you cannot build a friendship with your roommate, you can discover this sense of belonging with people in your classes and extracurricular activities.
In terms of a roommate relationship, what matters most is that your shared living space is one that you both agree upon and feel comfortable with. This encompasses setting boundaries, having a clean (or messy, if you agree on it) environment or similar sleeping patterns. Of course, part of a positive roommate relationship is both members having a friendly attitude and respect for each other’s lifestyle.
Respect is the most critical aspect of having a successful roommate experience. Without respect being present in a shared living space, a person cannot feel comfortable coming home after a long, stressful day. This feeling of safety and security is critical, especially while in college, as days filled with classes, assignments and other responsibilities are often tiresome and challenging.
If you are finding yourself in this middle ground, it is perfectly normal to feel disappointed that your experience did not turn out exactly as you imagined. But rest assured, you will find your place with the friends and groups of people that are right for you.
Ultimately, college students, especially first-years, must let go of the idealized roommate experience portrayed on social media platforms like TikTok. Social media is not reality, and at the end of the day, we are all college students learning how to exist in a space away from home.
Give yourself, and your roommate, grace and the room to grow. Everything will work out how it is supposed to.