For many, college is the final step before transitioning into the real world.
Even the word “transition” can carry an exciting connotation of change for some students. Yet, there are others who find the same change as intimidating as sailing through foggy waters without a compass. But with supportive people in our lives, transitions can go much more smoothly.
Historically, humans’ openness to change has served us well: We’ve adapted to harsh weather climates, blazed trails to unexplored lands and pioneered beyond our planet’s atmosphere. However, the final frontier in human advancement might just be sharing a room with another person.
Sharing space with another person, especially in America, is seen as a less than favorable condition. In the workplace, the home, the gym and the library, we all want our own space. Our personal space is where we have control over what goes where and how things are run.
The vast majority of those reading this column probably have at least one roommate. Whether you’re sharing a bedroom, a kitchen, a living room or a residence hall room, space is a daily issue. As tempting as it might be to split the room in half, that is not always the most effective solution to space disputes.
I found out early in my college career that sharing a room is not just sharing a room — let me explain. Throughout the next few months, you and your roommate will share a good portion of your lives together. Whether you will look back on this year favorably or not will be determined by how well you communicate with each other now.
Most students come to college with different expectations, including how roommates should act. “Why does he wail on his electric guitar when I’m clearly sleeping?” “Can’t she sing along to the Spice Girls when I’m not studying?” “Why does he think he can eat my food?”
Setting basic ground rules is a good idea, even when you’re living with your best friend. It might feel strange to sit down and formally set rules, but doing so will prevent future problems and will bring to light all unvoiced expectations.
When problems do arise, it’s also helpful to know how to communicate problems with each other. Yelling at your roommate won’t motivate her to clean her dishes. A more subtle approach is necessary, keep in mind that respect is always the key to good communication.
While sharing a room or home with other people, it’s also essential to realize that the space does not revolve around you. Pick your battles and be prepared to make sacrifices. You won’t get everything you want. Being flexible will ensure everyone feels respected.
Lastly, do not spend every waking minute with your roommates. Spend some time apart and hang out with different friends. Just because you live together does not mean you need to be attached at the hip. And if you’re worried about offending your roommates by spending time with other people, encourage them to get involved in a club or a different group to meet and make friends of their own.
Chris Brotherton is a senior in family studies and human services. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.