We’ve all heard them before—unbelievably horrifying roommate stories that should not be wished upon anybody. Whether the conflict is extreme or not, everyone is likely to run into roommate problems at some point or another because not everyone gets along 100% of the time—as Residence Director Jessica Sharpe says, when it comes to roommates, “it’s not about the good days.” College is one of the places where many run into such dilemmas, but living on campus can be a great experience and a comfortable place away from home for residents to learn and grow. With helpful quotes from an interview with Sharpe and from The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen, here is a list of things to remember in order to combat these unavoidable situations when they arise.
1. Communication really is key. To avoid escalating a problem, Sharpe says, “Be open, be honest, be realistic, and be okay with saying ‘no’… Be okay with disagreeing with your roommate. Talk about it, and then move on.” Each roommate needs to be made aware when something has made the other uncomfortable and what is okay with being shared.
2. Set boundaries before they are needed. Respect each other’s differences, stuff and space. Make rules or write a roommate agreement to help avoid uncomfortable situations. Things such as guests, sharing food or clothing, cleaning and noise are big topics of discussion.
3. When there is conflict, work it out as soon as possible or it will get worse. Cohen writes that, “If you see it or hear it and don’t do or say anything about it, your roommate might think you’re cool with it.” Agree that issues will be discussed within 48 hours—that is, not with everyone else, but with each other. Sharpe says, “It is okay to say ‘Hey, you cannot eat my goldfish anymore’ because then that person knows where they stand with you.” Naked, smelly, drunk, klepto or gettin’ busy in the same room kind of roommate, whatever the problem, approach the situation ASAP the first time around.
4. Be considerate. Community living can be a great experience as long as each resident remembers that it is a shared space. Sharpe says roommates should “be okay if they are not best friends with their roommate, but it is important to at least be cordial.” Each has the right to study in the room, and each has the right to ask the other to take their phone conversation outside or put in headphones.
5. Close friends may take advantage. Best friends are likely to live together, but remember that the closer and more comfortable the relationship, the less likely each person will try to please the other. In other words, they might be less tidy, expel gas at will or not be as respectful of things.
6. Use your Resources. Residence Life is here to help if the situation is too uncomfortable or gets out of hand. Most importantly, if emergency help is needed, do not hesitate to call campus police (919.760.8888), the RD on duty (919.612.6350), or use the counseling center (919.760.8427).
The bottom line: Cohen writes, “If you want to get along and your roommate wants to get along, you’ll get along. If not—welcome to roommate hell.”
By Kristen Viera, Staff Writer