Information You Can Use to Live Successfully in the residence halls at Bridgewater State University
A Roommate Agreement can help you and your roommate(s) develop common goals and guidelines for your room. It typically covers all issues that are important to you and your roommate(s), such as guests, noise, sharing food, clothes, and other items. Your Resident Assistant (RA) can assist you and your roommate(s) in developing a roommate contract that will work best for your room.
Remember, a Roommate Agreement will only be successful if you and your roommate(s) adhere to the guidelines set forth in it. It is important to revisit the contract occasionally to make sure it is still working for your room.
College may be the first time that many people are sharing their room and their personal space. This can be very stressful. Simply expressing this concern to your roommate can help to alleviate this stress and make you both aware of that potential problem area. It is very important to have open lines of communication so that things can be resolved and dealt with before they get out of control. Click here for more information about communicating with your roommate.
- Common Belongings
Discuss, in advance, which large items you will each bring and what you will share. Televisions, refrigerators, and microwaves are items that you will usually only need one of. Coordinate these things before you move in to avoid showing up with multiple items.
- Sleep, Study and Social Habits
Not everyone goes to sleep and wakes up at the same time. Your schedules are going to be different and you need to respect that. If your roommate needs to study and you have some free time to watch TV or listen to music there needs to be an understanding of how this will be handled. One of you may want to go to a study lounge or the library or your friend's room, or perhaps headphones can be worn to eliminate the problem of noise.
Everyone is going to have friends over at one time or another. It can be helpful to set up some ground rules on the hours that guests are acceptable. This room is shared and both of you need to be comfortable in it.
- Potential Areas for Conflict
- Cleaning - some roommates are fanatic about cleaning while others prefer a more relaxed approach to straightening up. Realize that there are differences here and try to come up with a happy medium. One thing that may help is to come up with a cleaning plan, especially if you share a common area or bathroom.
- Sharing - many arguments arise out of one roommate assuming an item is a shared good. Make these lines clear right from the start and if there is ever a question, always err on the side of caution and ask for permission.
- You - be aware of your own quirks and habits. You are new to this roommate and they do not know you very well yet. Or you may have been friends before, but living together is a new experience. Always be respectful of your roommate and the needs and expectations that he or she has of you. Be flexible. Living with a roommate can be hard work but it can also be very rewarding.
- How to Handle Conflict
Before there is a problem that needs to be discussed it may be helpful to work out a plan for dealing with potential problems. Confront issues as they happen and don't allow them to build up over time. Click here for more information on dealing with conflict.
Communication works two ways: talking and listening. Neither one is effective without the other. To build a successful roommate relationship you need to keep the lines of communication open. This doesn't mean that you should share everything but you need to talk actively with your roommate.
A Good Beginning
It is important to start off on the right foot with your new roommate. Even if your roommate is not new to you, you are still new to being roommates and living with him or her will show you things that you never knew about your friend. You should begin by addressing potential problem areas and getting them out in the open so that there will be fewer surprises down the road. Take some time to talk about habits and preferences.
Most roommate conflicts are the result of miscommunication or, in some cases, a total lack of communication. If you can communicate effectively it will be much easier to develop a comfortable living environment for yourself and your roommate.
These tips should help you to communicate in a healthy way with your roommate.
- Talk to your roommate directly when something is bothering you. Don't discuss it behind his or her back because this can cause a breakdown in trust between the two of you.
- Be direct. Be clear about what is bothering you. If you don't tell your roommate that there is a problem he or she won't be able to do anything about it.
- If you create a win-win situation then the conflict is more likely to be resolved. Evaluate the needs of both sides before a solution is proposed. And make sure the solution is acceptable to both parties.
- Respect each other's differences. Everyone has different values, lifestyles, expectations, and communication styles. Get to know each other and establish common ground. It is easier to solve a problem with a friend than with a stranger.
If you are upset with your roommate, chances are that he or she is upset with you as well. Being involved in a dialogue means that you need to be able to listen and give everyone a turn to speak. Criticism is bound to happen and your normal reaction is going to be to criticize back, but that is only going to compound the problem. Learning to accept criticism is going to help you communicate and live with your roommate. If you both find that you are approaching the limit and things are not being resolved, agree to take some time away from the discussion to give you both time to process what is going on. This will also give you each time to develop feedback that is not going to be hurtful and won't be fueled by anger.
Communication sometimes breaks down and you may have to confront your roommate with an issue that one of you has with the other. If this happens then it is helpful to have some idea of how you are going to go about it. If you already have a plan on how to deal with a conflict before one ever occurs, you will be more ready to deal with it if one does pop up.
How to tell there is an issue:
- Your roommate may not want to talk to you, may leave the room when you enter or may be complaining to friends about you.
- Your roommate may become annoyed with you over little things.
If you start to notice these things you should not ignore them. If a problem is addressed early there is a better chance of it being worked out amicably.
How to address the issue:
- Approach your roommate in private.
- Be direct. Discuss the issue with regard to behaviors rather than personality traits. This tactic is less likely to put your roommate on the defensive.
- Be patient. Listen to you roommate and remember that there are two sides to every story.
- Be calm and remain in control so that the problem can be handled effectively. Nothing will be resolved if you are screaming at each other.
- A roommate agreement. At the beginning of the year you may draw up an agreement and this may be referred back to when conflict does arise. Your RA can help you with this.
How to resolve the issue:
- Each person should be given a chance to present what he or she feels the problem actually is.
- Together, you should come up with a compromise that you are both comfortable with.
- Then develop a plan of action that will put these changes into place. Perhaps a timeline for the changes will help as well. No one can be expected to change overnight.
A roommate agreement can sometimes help to set guidelines from the very beginning. If you have created one of these then it may be helpful to refer back to it from time to time. Keep it current and make sure it still applies to your roommate situation. Ask your Resident Assistant (RA) for help creating an agreement.
One of the exciting parts about college is the opportunity to meet new and different people. You may find that you are placed with other individuals who come from a very different background than yourself. Rather than seeing this as a downside, try to look at it as an opportunity to expand your horizons. On the practical side, be sure not to assume that your roommates share your expectations. For example, your roommates' concept of quiet and loud may be quite different from your own. A roommate agreement could be particularly helpful to address these issues.
The most important thing to remember is that other people have been in the same position, and have even learned from their experience! See what Vanessa had to say about her experience living with international students:
"Living with a person with a different background as myself ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. When I first came to BSU as a freshmen both my roommates were from foreign countries, and I have to say that at first I was a little intimidated, but it ended up being a wonderful learning experience. Both my roommates were Ethiopian. Their culture was so different from my own, but as each day went by I learned fascinating things about Ethiopia. My roommates taught me how to say different words in their language. They also let me know about events we had on campus that I could go to with them. In addition they taught me how to cook their foods. I recommend to anyone who is open minded to live with a person of a different race or ethnic background because you can learn a lot from them. They can even teach you things that can benefit you in the long run."
This is just one example of someone who had a great experience after she learned to celebrate the differences between her and her roommates!
Issues You and Your Roommate May Face
When living in a residence hall room with one or even two or three other people, space can become an issue. It is important that all roommates have equal space in the room.
In an additional occupancy room where having equal amenities may be an issue, this is more difficult. In this situation, sit down with your roommates to develop a plan to share the furniture. Communication is the key to making this kind of a situation work.
When discussing space issues, it is also important to discuss cleaning and shared spaces (such as a suite common area or bathroom). Discuss what an acceptable level of cleanliness is. Then develop a cleaning schedule and stick to it. If you believe that one roommate is not sticking to the agreed upon plan, then talk about the situation with them. If you need assistance to do this, see your RA.
A roommate agreement can help to set guidelines. If you have created one of these then it may be helpful to refer back to it from time to time. Keep it current and to make sure it still applies to your roommate situation. Ask your Resident Assistant (RA) for help creating a contract.
Most students like to have their friends visit them in their residence hall room. However, this can become a problem when a guest is there so frequently that you have another roommate.
Before you and your roommate(s) start inviting people to stay over it is important to discuss limits on guests. These are some questions you should come to a resolution on:
- Are there times when guests cannot be in the room?
- Are overnight guests permitted?
- Are you comfortable with overnight guests of the opposite sex?
- Can guests come over when you are not in the room?
- Is there a limit on how many guests you are comfortable with being in the room?
- Can guests use the shared suite bathroom to shower?
A roommate agreement can help to set guidelines. If you have created one of these then it may be helpful to refer back to it from time to time. Keep it current and make sure it still applies to your roommate situation. Ask your Resident Assistant (RA) for help creating a contract.
This can be a difficult one for roommates to negotiate. There are students who prefer to go to bed earlier and get up early. Invariably, some of these students will end up living with students who prefer to go to bed late and sleep in. If you find yourself in this situation there are a few things you and your roommate(s) can do to successfully live in this challenging situation.
- Talk about it - This is one of the most important things to do. Be sure to discuss what your preferences are and then figure out how to compromise if needed.
- Determine what is important to you - If you need the room to be dark and silent, you could invest in a facemask and a pair of earplugs so your roommate can have the desk light on to study. If you need music to sleep, but this won't work for your roommate, consider investing in headphones to listen to your nightly music.
- Be flexible - There will be points in the semester when either you or your roommate's sleeping habits will change due to exams or a large project. Be willing to work with your roommate to compromise in these situations.
To set ground rules for your room, consider drafting a Roommate Agreement. This will help you and your roommate develop common goals and guidelines for sleeping and noise at night.
If you or your roommate has a problem with drugs or alcohol, please speak with your Resident Assistant (RA) or Resident Director (RD) for help. This may be an issue of alcohol intoxication, uncontrollable behavior, unsafe behavior, or addiction.
You may also find these campus resources helpful for yourself or your roommate.
- Counseling Center
- Outreach Education
- Health Services and Counseling Center Outreach Education
- Campus Police
- Office of Student Conduct
If your roommate is doing something that makes you uncomfortable then communicate with your roommate to address your concerns. You may also find speaking with your RA or RD to be helpful, as they are there to assist you and are trained to deal with these problems.