“First-year roommates matter. Their reach can ripple throughout the college years and after.” Abigail Sullivan Moore, in her 2010 article “The Science of Roommates,” stresses the impact your first roommate can have and the changes that ensue. Reflecting on my experiences that first year I would have to agree, seeing a definite change in my life. Now, as I prepare to move in with a new roommate, I am pondering what it takes to be a successful roommate.
My very first roommate experience involves my roommate’s shirtless boyfriend, my family carrying heavy appliances, and a very awkward introduction. Needless to say, living with roommates can be challenging, but not everyone’s memories are quite as uncomfortable.
Karissa Schuler, a junior at VCSU, had a great first-year relationship recalling, “We had similar interests; we both liked the same books and the same TV shows.” Krista Engler, also a junior at VCSU, exudes the same enthusiasm stating, “Roommates are a good experience to meet new friends. I wouldn’t be friends with the people I am friends with if it wasn’t for my first-year roommate.”
Even with this positive light, there is always a negative aspect at some point. KaSaundra Peterson, a VCSU sophomore said, “There is a lot of adjusting you have to do when getting to know somebody.”
Yi Wang, a senior at VCSU elaborates: “Everyone has different personal behaviors that will cause problems. Choose a roommate you know well so the relationship will last through conflict.”
Choosing someone similar is not a bad idea, and today’s world of social media makes finding your perfect match even easier. Lisa Foderaro researched the new and popular URoomSurf.com, a website similar to a dating site, but used to find your perfect roommate. Thousands of students use the site and find it “empowering to choose their own roommate.” Others feel “it robs young adults of opportunity for growth.”
Additional avenues of research suggest you grow more similar through time spent together. John Kurtz and Jennifer Sherker of Villanova University (2003) conclude, “Self-other agreement for several personality traits does increase with time.” Put simply, more time spent with your roommate makes your personalities more congruent.
Although URoomSurf.com sounds intriguing, I feel I would have missed out without my first-year roommates, and I can recognize in my friendships the patterns of personality traits that I inherited from close friends. There definitely was adjusting during my freshman year, but I believe the benefits outweigh negative aspects and can be a better roommate if I keep a few simple aspects in mind.
Katherine Gerntholz, in her freshman year, learned the importance of, “Dealing with other people’s dynamics and working their schedules around yours.” Otherwise, tension can ensue. Erin Cafferty, the author of the September 2013 article “Roommates” agrees writing, “Cleanliness turns out to be a bigger issue than you think.” Both Erin and Yi suggest discussing a chore list before moving in with a roommate in order to equally share duties and lessen stress.
The 2012 article, “So, Roomie, Let’s Talk”, by Daniel Slotnik suggests the tactic of asking yourself questions when conflict arises, such as, “Have you expressed what makes you feel uncomfortable?” Recognizing yourself as part of the problem can help you communicate better when confronting your roommate.
Roommates allow you to grow as a person, helping you experience life and cope with conflict. Whether good or bad, these friendships can change your life forever moving you from one stage to the next and shaping you into a respectable adult.