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Retain sanity when dealing with roommates

When one imagines the “college experience,” they usually have visions of all night cram sessions, 3 a.m. pizza feasts and living with roommates dancing in their heads.

Yes, having roommates – that mixture of blessing and curse that most in college will surely experience at one time or another. Get good ones and you’ll be thanking your lucky stars; get bad ones and you will wonder what you have done to deserve such a fate. Ask anyone on this campus and it is certain that for every good roommate relationship, there are those with horror stories of past roommates gone wrong.

Yet even with the potential for disaster, many – including myself – see living with roommates as a good experience, and overall, it is. It teaches and reinforces skills such as communication and compromise. Having roommate also usually means cheaper rent, a built-in friend to go out and do things with and someone else to help keep the place clean.

Even though roommates can become a second family, it’s not always smooth sailing. In my experience of sharing living quarters with others over the past four years, the spring semester seems to be the prime time for conflicts to arise. I don’t know why spring brings this on – it could be the stress of impending finals or the fact that roomies get on each other’s nerves a just a little after living together for seven months. Whatever the reason, conflict cannot always be avoided but must be faced head on.

It is in this spirit that I offer some tips on dealing with roommate frustrations to keep the “sweet” in “home sweet home” – at least until the end of the semester.

First, keep the lines of communication open and clear. This tip may seem like common sense, but if your beloved roomie is driving you insane, talking to them may become a low priority. However, a simple conversation could solve the problem, but the first step has to be taken – if you don’t ask questions, you don’t get answers.

It is important to keep communication with roommates not only open, but honest as well. You don’t have to tell your roommate every minute detail of what’s going on, but the truth will come out eventually. When the dust settles, your roommate will be even more hurt at the fact that you were not upfront with them.

Even non-verbal communication can help to avoid misunderstandings. For example, you leave a big mess in the living room or kitchen but can’t clean it up until later because you have class. If you leave a note on paper or a white board explaining this, your roommates know exactly what’s going on, heading off conflict before it happens. When it comes to important issues, though, they should be talked over in person. It may seem difficult and there may be a fear of hurting the other person’s feelings, but it is the best course of action. Things get solved when they are talked out. Leaving a note is better than nothing, but should only be done if talking to your roomie is impossible.

If a person-to-person discussion seems too tough to tackle, use an intermediary, such as another friend or a Resident Assistant (RA) if you live in the residence halls. Don’t feel shy about asking a friend, or especially an RA, for help – it’s their job to deal with stuff like this. While an intermediary may not magically solve all problems between roommates, they do help to facilitate discussion and keep the conversation from becoming too heated or emotional.

Even if you and your roommate do not get along or did not choose to live together, the experience doesn’t have to be all bad. Each party can come to a common ground and respect each other as individuals. If that doesn’t work, though, at least be civil to each other. And remember, there’s only five weeks left in the semester and you can always find a new roommate for next fall – hang in there.

Amanda Whitsitt is a senior majoring in mass communications.