Kalama: Choose your roommates wisely

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Jaycee Kalama, Columnist

Right now is the time to start looking into housing situations for next school year, it’s also the perfect time to begin the search for roommates. Although it may seem like the best idea to room with a close friend, there are other factors that play into what makes a roommate a good roommate. Finding a compatible roommate is important because you will probably sign a lease, which means that you’ll be stuck together until your contract ends.

While you and your best friend may be used to spending every waking moment by each other’s side, in the case of living together, the friendship could violate personal boundaries. The notion of personal space could become a vague concept that could later manifest into a much larger issue in the future. 

It is important to take time for yourself not only in college, but in all parts of life. If you and your roommate lead balanced and separate lives, there will be a satisfactory amount of alone time.

“Having a college roommate can help students be exposed to – and learn how to get along with new types of people,” said John Edwards, professor of psychology and associate dean for Student Services in the College of Liberal Arts. 

It could also be difficult to expand your friend circle if you and your roommate are too dependent on each other’s friendship. Living with your BFF might actually close doors for you in terms of your social life. Choosing to room with someone who is not in your immediate friend group is a great way to network.

“My roommates and I definitely had different social lives. It affected how close of friends we became since we never got to talk much,” said Alex Houlette, a first year biochemistry and molecular biology student. “I would advise roommates to talk more, even if social lives don’t connect as well as you would like.”

Get habituated with your roommates. Find out how your prospective roommates live and socialize with others. Do they stay home all the time, never home, like being alone or like hanging out? Get as much information about their social habits as possible before you move in together. These habits are things that you must be able to live with, so make sure you will have enough alone time to maintain your individuality while still being able to create new relationships along the way.

Money issues can arise in any household. Money conflicts can strain an otherwise happy

roommate situation. Being able to pay rent on time, pitching in for necessities and not stealing each other’s food seems to be common knowledge when rooming with someone in college. If you and your roommate are not on the same page about your economic situation this can be a problem.

Instead, have a money talk. Get with your prospective roommate(s) to discuss every bill, the portion expected to pay and estimated monthly amounts. Make sure all parties have the ability to pay for said bills and employment is a sure thing. This is a good time to bring up food costs as well. Most roommates are not open to sharing food and food costs, so be sure to establish how you want to handle that.

Find someone who’s able to contribute to everyday needs and who shares the same cleanliness habits. You want a roommate who will pitch in with household chores, groceries and other critical responsibilities in the home. Otherwise, you’ll likely become resentful if you feel like you’re doing more than your fair share.

Whether you split up cleaning tasks so each party does something each week, determine which day of the week is cleaning day or even make a chore chart, it’s better to make a plan than to just assume everyone will do something. Same goes for paying for shared groceries. Make a shopping list and divide up the costs between you and your roommates. One can buy the toilet paper and milk while the other buys dish soap and cereal. 

“You want to live with someone who isn’t really different from you in terms of critically important values.  But the most important thing, really, is to figure out how to get along with others,” said Edwards.

The easiest way to find common ground with someone is through shared interests and values. Having similar beliefs as your roommate can help avoid those awkward confrontations. For example, if smoking is generally a deal-breaker for you in a relationship, it’s best to avoid living with somebody who smokes at all. 

 “If I were looking for a new roommate I would want someone who had more similar morals and values as me. I would look for someone who had the same interest and wanted to do the same types of things,” Tyler Pederson, a second year biohealth student said. “The main reason I moved out of my old living situation was because of my roommates. There was no communication between my roommates and I, and any communication that did happen did not seem to stick. I would recommend having open communication with your roommates, even if it’s an awkward conversation.”

Find out what your prospective roommate expects from you and ensure that your roommate knows what you expect from them. It is important that all parties can conform to these expectations. When you have found someone that you can live with, put as many of the terms that you discussed in writing and be as detailed as needed. Informality and vagueness never helped anybody. 

“People who live together have to learn how to get along with each other, learn how to compromise, and learn how to get over disagreements without holding grudges or making negative attributions about the other person’s character,” said Edwards. “If the two parties can’t do that, then life together won’t go well.  In general, if a person acts from a place of compassion towards others, things are most likely to work out for the best.”

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