Living with a stranger and learning to establish boundaries

Living with a roommate is an entirely new concept for a lot of college freshmen — whether you grew up an only child or never having to share a room with siblings, or you did and this is just a new environment — living with a roommate can be a whole new experience. While it is nice to believe you and your roommate will get along swimmingly, it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s important to have strategies to employ to prevent and solve issues that arise.

My best personal advice as both a person who has had a roommate in the past and as someone who is now a Community Advisor is to get to know your roommate as best you can before you move in together. Whether you went to high school together and know each other from there, or you reach out over the summer through email or phone, knowing who you are moving in with, what they are like, what they want the room to look like, can be super crucial to creating an inviting space right off the bat. 

“Finding some common ground is super helpful,” said Mikayla Witter, a Community Advisor.

Something that is often recommended by Community Advisors, myself included, is to use us as resources. We are here to give advice, to mediate, or just chat. We are always willing to help you, and if we aren’t able to, we can find someone who can.

Writing stuff down can also be helpful. 

“Utilize your roommate agreements,” said Witter. 

Hard boundaries are important, like your sleep and study schedules. It is important that you respect your roommate’s and they respect you, so writing that information down at the beginning of the year, especially on the roommate agreement your Community Advisor gives you, can be crucial if an argument on the subject comes up later on.

“Set clear boundaries at the beginning of the semester,” said Community Advisor, Chase Belka.

On the flip side of that coin, flexibility is equally as important. 

“Be flexible, go with the flow. Things will not always be how you want them but that’s OK,” said Community Advisor Caitlyn Loya. 

Understanding that your room may not look exactly how you envisioned it, or your roommate’s friends may be loud, or their food may not smell the way you like, is sometimes crucial to keeping the peace. Boundary setting is important. So is compromising.

Lastly, in the words of Community Advisor Kaleb Howze, “Open communication is important for success.” 

Asking questions when you have them, telling your roommate when you want to have guests, and telling your roommate when you have an issue, are all things to keep an open line of communication about with your roommate.

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