Fostering a genuine roommate relationship can make life at Emory feel a lot less stressful for both parties. Some roommates might get along with minimal communication, while others become best friends and see each other constantly. There is no single right way to be a roommate, but below, I’ve compiled useful tips to help you make the most out of your roommate situation. 

Be yourself

Whether you’re living with a randomly assigned roommate or your best friend, adapting to life with a roommate can be daunting. Nonetheless, it’s important to always be yourself. The goal is to create an environment that is suitable for both you and your roommate. Honesty is key to any relationship, especially when you’re living in the same place. Don’t be afraid to tell your roommate about your past, your hobbies or anything else that makes you who you are. You never know, maybe you and your roommate will share interests and have something to bond over.

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries early on in the semester can help you and your roommate avoid potential conflict in the future. Establishing a strict “lights out” time may feel unnecessary this early on in the semester, but you’ll be glad you have it in place when you have to get a good night’s sleep before an upcoming midterm. Other areas where boundaries are important is when you are deciding how tidy you want to keep the dorm, suite or apartment; how comfortable you are sharing your belongings; and what kind of visitor policy you want. Setting clear boundaries early on will make life much easier as the school year progresses.

Don’t let problems go unresolved

For many people, confrontation and conflict resolution is difficult. In roommate relationships, this can lead to problems dragging on for way longer than necessary. You might be intimidated or feel like something isn’t “that big of a deal,” but if

Illustration by Christopher Labaza // The Emory Wheel

something is bothering you, the best course of action is to bring it up with your roommate. Don’t rely on texting either — speak to your roommate face-to-face because texting may not convey the tone or emotion that is necessary. Yet, you can and should tell your roommate over text about your plans to have that talk to avoid surprising them with a serious conversation. 

However you do it, the most important thing is that you have that conversation. The solution may be as simple as making your roommate aware of the problem. If your roommate doesn’t know that their music is making it hard for you to study, they will never turn down the volume or put in headphones. Not confronting your roommate when the problem begins can lead to bigger problems in the future. 

Be open to compromise

When conflict does arise, it’s important to seek common ground. When it seems like there is no way to get exactly what you want, you may need to look for compromises. Maybe you can’t keep up with your roommate’s high standards of cleanliness, but your roommate is also tired of cleaning up after you. In this instance, you may agree to contain your mess to your half of the room and to clean up for special occasions like Family Weekend. That way, you can live your truth while respecting your roommate’s wishes. 

At the same time, however, decide what is worth compromising on. If you feel like you’re always having to compromise while your roommate never does, it may be time to seek another method of conflict-resolution. You can ask your Resident Advisor for advice or see if they would be willing to serve as a mediator. In general, if you expect your roommate to change their behavior to suit your needs, you should be open to doing the same for them.

Use empathy

Nobody’s perfect, and even the best roommate relationships aren’t perfect all the time. That’s why having empathy is essential. When you and your roommate are having trouble seeing eye-to-eye, try to step into their shoes. Maybe they’re swamped with assignments and exams, maybe differences lie in your upbringings or maybe they’re dealing with personal problems that you don’t know about. Understanding your roommate’s perspective doesn’t always excuse their behavior, but it can help you find the best solutions and maintain a positive relationship throughout the school year.

With all that said, building a relationship with your roommate isn’t always easy. But by following the tips above, you will be well on your way to solving problems and becoming a better roommate. Most importantly, avoid conflict so that you have a safe and comfortable living space while you deal with everything else that college throws your way.

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Christopher Labaza (22C) is from Cary, North Carolina, majoring in creative writing. Outside of the Wheel, he writes satire for the Emory Spoke, volunteers at the local animal shelter with Pawsitive Outreach and performs in the Emory Wind Ensemble. Some of his favorite things include reading, taking walks and doing anything creative.