Emily* was thrilled with her decision to pick her roommate before college. They talked over the summer, and she was sure they would get along great. Everything was fine for the first month — they shared clothes, food, and even friends. Until the day came when Emily came home to find all her food gone. But she stayed silent. “I felt obligated to be on good terms with her,” said Emily. She ignored the problem until her roommate began borrowing clothes without permission and returning them with spills and dirt stains. The burgeoning tension between them eventually exploded in a messy fight.
Living with a complete stranger has its risks: at best, it blooms into a beautiful friendship, and at worst, it devolves into an ugly rivalry. If your roommate situation turns sour, how do you deal? Here are some things you can do:
1. Talk to your roommate. Many students regret not communicating better with their roommate. While it may be uncomfortable to broach the subject, not saying anything is ten times more uncomfortable. “We live in an age where everything is done over the computer or sometimes through notes or letters, but no one wants to talk face to face,” writes Linda Fiore in her book, The College Roommate from Hell: Skills and Strategies for Surviving College with a Roommate Problem.
2. Talk to your CA. Community Assistants are an invaluable resource: they are neutral people who you can go to for advice or just to vent. It is literally in their job description to help you with your roommate problems and they are trained to help you sort through your issues. “Usually one person will come to the CA with their problems, and the CA will coach them and tell them how to adapt and deal with the issue,” Senior Assistant Director of the University of Residential Life Virginia Koch said.
3. Refer back to your roommate agreement. You and your roommate sat down together at the beginning of the year and signed what is in essence a contract. If your roommate violates the terms you agreed upon, you should review the roommate agreement together or with a CA. It is your responsibility to site the roommate agreement: thanks to a new section concerning alcohol habits, you retain possession of the contract.
4. Move out. Only consider this option after exhausting all other routes. If you can no longer tolerate your roommate, and the situation has progressively worsened, discuss moving out with your CA. However, you may want to consider that your relocation may not be ideal. “Because of limited space, it is often hard to move a student. They could be placed in a completely different dorm away from their friends,” Koch said. If you must move out, try to find a friend willing to switch roommates. This expedites the move out process and increases the likelihood of enjoying your new living situation.
Especially if you are sharing a room with someone for the first time, awkwardness is completely normal. That doesn’t mean you have to tolerate bad roommate behavior.
“I think that learning to live with another person is a life skill,” Koch said. “It’s not easy, and it definitely takes time.”
*Name has been changed.