Your First Year Living with College Roommates
Alright, so—moving out to college is a big deal. It’s likely you’re first time living away from home, and you have a ton of expectations of what it’s like. You (or, let’s be honest, your parents) have signed a one-year lease to live in a room in your college dorm. You spend the summer months packing up all your belongings and buying new housing things anticipating what your college life will be like given what you’ve read and heard and seen. For the big living items and decorations, it’s good to coordinate not to double up on the same items since space is limited.
The format is different depending on your circumstances, but you will probably live in a flat with other rooms and share a kitchen with your dorm mates, or perhaps even share a single room with college roommates. Saving space wherever possible will be key. You are likely told their names by the house managers, and you can probably find each other on Facebook. It’s not a bad idea to introduce yourself and share your excitement about starting college and sharing dorms, and eventually getting to the practical stuff, like what everyone is planning to bring. They might end up being your best friend, or there may end up being conflict.
It is advised that you are open-minded and relaxed, because tensions can build easily. If you think one or more of your roommates is already setting demands that you don’t think reasonable, red flags should be going up. Recognize these cases BEFORE moving-in. Contact your dorm management and request re-assignment as early as possible, stating practical reasons. They probably receive many of these requests and are not conducive to reassigning students unless they think it will prevent more work for them in the future if you and your flat mate ended up in an unlivable situation. They are understanding and probably don’t want you to be miserable, but they also are unable to whimsically cater to your convenience.
But, most likely, you will touch base with your dorm mates and find everyone agreeable and excited for college. Share your interests and expectations, and get to know each other. Your first year dorm mates will be critical to your freshman year experience. Do they envision themselves partying? In the dorm? Are they super studious, already planning their post-graduation careers? Nothing is wrong with having different opinions on any of the above—but it is important to communicate. Do yourselves a favor and give each other a sense of what to expect. It is non-trivial to both move away from your family and move directly beside people you’ve hardly spent time with. As a corollary, know that freshman year is a time when new habits are formed—what you think you will be like may be radically different from what you are like in the months to come. Know the same applies to your dorm mates! Hopefully you all can find a way to spend time together beyond occupying adjacent living quarters and embrace similar hobbies, habits, and routines.
It’s finally the big day: move-in. You have all your stuff packed in the car. You pull up to campus, kiss mom and dad goodbye, and join all the other freshman entering their dorms for the first time. You pick up your key and head to the dorm number you’ve been assigned.
Walk in—greet your dorm mates on your floor, and especially get to know your college roommates. Help each other unpack. Gauge the mood—if you all are excited to go out and about campus, do it! There are usually tons of events around this time, and use them to get more familiar with each other. Go out as a crew the first night. Meet people in neighboring dorm rooms and engage in activities together.
At some point, probably within the first few days, when there is some downtime, make sure to take the time to get the practical things in–talk about what should go where in common areas, and get a sense of the responsibilities like taking out the trash, cleaning, and buying supplies and food for the house. Don’t let it hamper your introductory experiences, but make sure communication of responsibilities are clear before classes start. Because, once they do, there will be plenty of things to do and not enough time to get to all of them—so make sure to use this time while you have it.
In sum, there is definitely a lot of uncertainty in moving in with people you have hardly spent time with. Focus on communicating your expectations of each other from the get-go, and stay positive and open-minded—these early and formative years of college are experiences you will remember for the rest of your life! And, as the Irish say, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.