For most students, going off to college and living in the campus dorms or apartments is your first experience to living with roommates.  These roommates can turn out to be lifelong friends, a hellish nightmare, or something in between.  Either way, learning how to navigate the murky waters of roommate living early on will be vital to your sanity.

When your rooms are all set up, classes are getting started, and you both are generally settled in, take a moment to sit down and have an honest heart to heart.  Talk about your best and worst qualities, your pet peeves, and your hopes for the next year.  For example, I sat down with my roommate and was honest about the fact that I hate to do dishes – so much so that I’ll vacuum, take out the trash, and clean the bathroom before I do the dishes.  I do my dishes, but I generally wait until the end of the day and sometimes the next morning (I got night classes and I’m generally too tired for housework when I get home).  But I never let me dishes sit for more than a day and a half and I never allow them to smell or get moldy.  My roommate understood and admitted that he hates taking out of the trash.  So we made an agreement that I’ll take out the trash more often and he’ll occasionally do a dish or two that is mine.  We were able to reach a compromise that worked for us, prevents either of us from getting frustrated, and keeps the house peaceful.

Plus, since we have an understanding, we’ve better able to talk if something comes up that bothers us.  I’m always very careful that my tone isn’t accusatory and that I’m addressing the problem and not him personally.  For example, when either of us has a huge test or project that is due, we avoid bringing guests over to the apartment.  This keeps the noise level down and enables the other one to focus better.  If one of us just needs to get some general studying done and the other wants to have guests over, we’ll put out the effort to go study at a local coffee shop or the library.  It is a good balance that works for us.

My roommate is one of my best friends – someone I can hang out with, watch movies, and overall trust.  I’ve been so fortunate that a friendship has blossomed between the two of us and I know that so much of this is thanks to the communication we established early on.

If you have a roommate from hell and no amount of talking or compromising is getting you anywhere, try turning to your RA (Resident Assistant) for help.  Your RA can often help and if all else fails, help you find a new roommate.

[Photo Courtesy of Flickr User Ryochiji and used with a CC 2.0 License]