Shared space

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Photo credit: Brooke Morrill


Roommates, one minute they can be adored, the next, they deserve a swift kick to the curb. Even if someone is happy about college life, any type of tension or disharmony with roommates can sour that enthusiasm.

People with diverse personalities and backgrounds, living under the same roof, are bound to disagree with one another at some point. Some universities offer specific roommate counseling to help cope with the new environment, but because UVU doesn’t have any on-campus housing, students are left to figure it out for themselves.

It takes equal efforts on everyone’s part to maintain a “drama free” environment, and just understanding a few basic ideas can help minimize the stress.

Lay out all the expectations, best practices, and responsibilities right from the start.  The most common arguments roommates have center around paying the rent and utility bills, as well as, maintaining a clean living environment. By having honest discussions about personal accountability, early on, misunderstandings can be avoided in the future.

Discuss any personal habits or practices that may have the potential to be problematic. The tendency to take long showers every day or wanting to have the girlfriend/boyfriend in the bedroom on a regular basis, should be included in initial roommate conversations. If there are any strong feelings about any particular issue and don’t feel like it would be or should be supported, don’t feel obligated to stay. People have a right to feel comfortable in the places they live.

Respect each other’s personal belongings and living space.  Borrowing clothes from each other may be commonplace for some roommates, but not everyone wants to participate in this practice. Life shouldn’t be a sitcom, so it’s not necessary to act like it is. Be upfront regarding boundaries and be respectful of theirs as well.

Deal with any conflict immediately and then drop it.  No one wants past mistakes or problems brought up over and over again and holding grudges wastes a lot of energy.  Part of growing up is learning to respond to conflict like an adult.  Address the issue, forgive and move forward.

Embrace inclusiveness and avoid cliquing.  Take the time to get to know all the people you are living with.  Be willing to share things too. Like any relationships, it’s about give-and-take. Roommate life is more fun when everyone feels part of the group.

Finally, be open to a different approach to things. One particular occasion, I asked my roommate to keep an eye on a birthday cake that was cooking in the oven. I was already running late on getting the cake done, but needed to run errands, so my roommate agreed to help out.  A short time later I returned to find the entire top of the cake burnt to a crisp. I asked my roommate what had happened to cause the charcoaled mess.  Her response, “I figured if it took 35 minutes to cook in an oven at 325 degrees, it would only take half the time at 425 degrees.”

Roommates can sweeten or sour the college experience. It’s up to the individual student to decide how.  Keep in mind though, it may not always turn out how one had imagined—it may turn out sweeter.

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