Sharing your personal space with a roommate or housemate, especially someone from a different country or culture, can be a wonderful part of your college experience – if you get along. Communication is the key! Here are some important issues you may want to consider discussing with your potential roommate(s) before you sign any kind of agreement or decide to room with someone:
Who else has keys to your apartment or room? Who will be coming and going on a regular basis? If you or your potential roommate(s) have a girlfriend or boyfriend are they allowed to stay overnight? If friends or relatives come to visit will they be welcome to share your communal area? Always make sure that you are comfortable with everyone who has access to your private space. If you have a party at home, make sure that you have all your roommates’ permission in advance and that you or your roommates know all the guests that are allowed to enter.
Do you and your potential roommate(s) have compatible schedules? If you plan on studying at home, make sure that you work out in advance a schedule that incorporates study time, sleep time, or when it is permissible to listen to music, watch TV, be on the telephone, or have guests.
Are you a slob, or do you prefer to keep your home tidy and clean? Do you like to cook but hate cleaning up after? Discuss in advance how you are going to keep your communal areas (bathroom, kitchen, living room) clean. You may want to make one person responsible for clean up on a weekly basis, or make each roommate responsible for their own mess on a daily basis.
Work out in advance if you will be sharing food items stored in the kitchen, dividing the cost of groceries and utilities, or borrowing or lending clothes, DVDs, CDs, etc. It can be frustrating to go to the refrigerator only to find that your favorite snack has disappeared – again!
You may want to put together a “House Rules List” that deals with the issues above, as well as any other concerns you might have. Make sure all roommates are aware of the house rules and are committed to following them in the interest of peace and harmony in your home.
If problems arise
- Remember that learning to get along with different personalities is part of growing as a person; your goal is not to fight, but to resolve issues before they get out of hand.
- Communicate and be willing to compromise with the little stuff!
- Actively listen to your roommates’ complaints, and be clear and calm regarding any complaints you may have.
- Do not try and resolve a conflict when you or your roommates are angry. Work it out once you have all cooled off.
- Be sure you completely understand what is being said and that what you are saying is also fully understood.
- If you find yourself in the middle of an escalating conflict, use a friend or other roommate as a witness.
- Keep a written record of your communications and the steps you have taken to try and resolve conflicts. Share this with all your roommates, including the person with whom you have been having problems.