One of my biggest concerns before entering college was living with a roommate. Even though I have sisters, I’ve had my own bedroom for the vast majority of my life. I had contemplated every inconvenience feasible, from worrying about not getting along with a new stranger to the troubles of never having my own space. I had heard horror stories of terrible roommate situations and spent many anxious nights deep into the Google search “what to do if you have a bad roommate.”
After just a week of being at RIT, I realized that the bulk of these fears were manageable, if a problem at all. I met my roommate through the Facebook Accepted Students page and we frequently talked before move-in day. She ended up being one of my closest friends my first year and still is now! Nevertheless, it took time to figure out how to be respectful of each other’s space with colliding schedules and workloads. We gradually learned the ins and outs of living with each other and these are our best takeaways:
1. Get Familiar with Your Schedules
This may seem unnecessary, but it proved to be really helpful for both of us. My roommate and I ended up taping a handwritten form of our semester class times near our dorm room door. It was convenient to know if my roommate was in class or when she was coming back without having to text her. Knowing her course schedule allowed me to plan my day easier, from recognizing when I would have a quieter room for homework to planning lunch together when we simultaneously had breaks.
2. Find a Favorite Place to Study Outside the Dorm Room
My roommate and I had very different workloads. As a design major, several of her first-year assignments were completed during class time. Most of my computer science and math courses had long homework assignments. Trying to stay focused and productive in my dorm room became a bit of a struggle, so I found some areas on campus where I loved doing work. During the day or between classes, I walked to George Eastman Hall, right across from the Sentinel, and worked in the lobby there (pictured below). It’s always quiet and the seats are particularly comfortable. Another constant was the library—there’s always a seat available on one of the floors and it's open late, which is undoubtedly a plus.
3. Beware of Alarms
This is one concern that I surprisingly hadn’t contrived on one of those many nights contemplating my fears of living with a roommate. Yet, morning alarms are definitely important to talk about. I worked at Margaret’s House, the daycare on the residence hall side, and my shifts started at 8:00am. On the days I had off, my roommate had 8:00am classes. This disrupted our sleep schedules and became frustrating when either of us wanted to sleep in. But, we found ways to minimize this problem. Try setting the ringer to a medium to low level—you’ll still be able to wake up from it, but your roommate is less likely to. Also, don’t set more than two alarms. I was in the habit of using ten different alarms in five-minute increments to force myself awake, but I quickly had to break that. Other students woke by the vibration of their Apple watch on their wrist instead of a loud sound.
4. Keep It Clean
No one is a pro at this, but we’ve discovered that if one roommate keeps their “side” clean, the other feels more responsible for doing so too. My roommate and I were relatively consistent with making our beds every day and we usually picked up anything lying around. Each dorm comes with two trash bins and one recycling bin, which made cleaning up relatively easy. I suggest buying some necessary cleaning supplies; my essentials were a multi-surface cleaner, Lysol wipes, paper towels, and trash bags. Garbage rooms are conveniently located on each floor, making “taking out the trash” pretty effortless. Thankfully, each RA has a vacuum available for the days your room needs a thorough cleaning. The bathrooms are cleaned every day by RIT staff, so that’s never a worry!
5. Communication is Key
Issues will occasionally rise, even if you think you’ve found a perfect roommate. The best way to go about it is to talk to them, which sounds remarkably obvious. This becomes cumbersome when you’re living with someone and don’t want it to take a turn for the worst. Most of the time, bringing a problem to your roommate’s attention allows them to be more sensitive to the issue. If you try to address complications, but their behavior is still affecting your academics, you have options to change your roommate. At the end of the day, you don’t have to be best friends with them—you have to be able to coexist and respect each other’s boundaries. Creating a friendship out of it is just a bonus.
After all of my useless, intricate worries about sharing a room, I’ve concluded that having a roommate was unarguably better than not. It was relieving to be with someone going through the same stresses that come with the first year at college. We shared many of the same experiences and emotions regarding homesickness, getting lost on campus, and navigating the different social scenes. Even in the beginning, when we were strangers, it was comforting to know that I wasn’t going through it alone.