Will she stand my mess? || What if she eats way healthier than I do?
What if she snores? || What if she doesn’t like my music?
Maybe I will be too loud… || I hope she doesn’t have people over all the time…
If you’ve ever anticipated having a “random” roommate, it’s likely that some of these questions and concerns have crossed your mind. I know they did for me a year ago when I was getting ready to move into my dorm and meet my freshman roommate, Alley. If you’re in a similar position, I want to let you know that having a roommate doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up being best friends or worst enemies. However, regardless of the depth of your friendship, your roommate can be a key part of your millennial college experience. Through the good and the bad, your roommate can change your life – if you let them.
I am currently rooming with Alley for a second year along with our freshman suitemate, also named Katie. Through our time together, I’ve come to appreciate the lessons and experiences that come with sharing space, time and daily activities. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned and reasons why I think every person could benefit from living with a roommate at some point during college.
Forget First [Facebook] Impressions
Before going any further, one of the first things I learned when I met Alley was that FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE OFTEN INCORRECT – especially when they’re made off of social media. I knew beforehand that Alley played volleyball, so as I went through her Facebook profile I had this image of her being extremely tall. But when I got to school I found out that she was a 5’6” setter, barely taller than me. She later told me that over the summer she had seen my profile picture, which at the time was a business headshot, and thought I was “intense and intimidating”.
As our friendship grew, I continued to realize that impressions are often inaccurate and do not usually indicate the true character of a person. Furthermore, if you find yourself “deciding” that you won’t end up being friends with your roommate, then it’s likely that you won’t – on the other hand, if you are open to learning about your roommate and going beyond the surface level impressions, you may be in for a worthwhile surprise
Wow, I didn’t know I was _________.
You should know that I am not a very organized person. My mom, who is extremely organized, used to tell me that if I kept up my mess in college, it could really upset my roommate. The funny thing is, after a few weeks of living in the dorm, I realized that I was definitely the neater one between Alley and me. Her “cave,” or the space underneath her lofted bed, was consistently home to piles of clothes, books and her chronically lost cellphone. As the messy one of my family, Alley’s clutter didn’t upset me. On the other hand, because I no longer had my mom to keep things in order, I was compelled to keep my part of the room clean – I learned that I could be neat when pushed in that direction.
Being in a different setting with different people can reveal strengths you didn’t know you had and can help you to improve in areas that you may need to work on.
Science Says So
Part of being human involves being with other people. Research points to the idea that relationships are not only something that people desire but are also an innate part of development and state of being. For example, one article suggests that “infants’ responses to a caregiver’s speech may make social interaction rewarding to both partners in ways that serve the infant’s development.” Without the caregiver the infant would have less direction in an important developmental stage. In a finding on the “contagiousness” of happiness, psychologist James H. Fowler says, “We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends’ happiness, but between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ friends’ happiness.”
If you’ve ever had a friend make you smile on a bad day, you’ve seen how the people around you can impact how you feel. Relationships are important, and living with a roommate provides an opportunity to experience the ups and downs of being in community with another person.
Right at home…
One of the biggest things I’ve realized about having roommates is that I understand and connect with them in a different way than I do with my other friends. The dorm room is where I can tell my embarrassing stories, sing along to cheesy music and cry after a bad day. My relationship with my roommates is unique from my relationships with other friends because we know each other on a different level – they’ve seen the good, bad and ugly. This being said, I need to clarify that knowing someone on different level doesn’t always mean knowing someone on a deeper level. While I am close with my roommates, not everyone is. But regardless of how close you are, you will likely find that your relationship with your roommate will be distinct from your relationships with others.
Investing, Supporting, Celebrating
Having roommates automatically gives me people to intentionally invest in. This can be as simple as writing an encouraging note on the door or spending time talking and praying for one another. As athletes, a big part of investing in one another has been going to each other’s games and taking time to both celebrate and commiserate together (in fact, Alley and I just went to Katie’s last volleyball game of the season). Whether it’s in the big things or in the daily pieces of life, I’ve found that the more I’ve poured in, the more I’ve found myself blessed by my roommates.
Rooming with other people is difficult. There are bound to be frustrations, hurt feelings and times when you just need space. But even though they may be painful at the time, these challenges can lead to beautiful, sometimes lifelong friendships. I have learned so much from both Alley and Katie and am invested in their lives. My roommates are my cheerleaders, adventure-partners and sisters in Christ. Whether we’re having a movie night, stressing over schoolwork or eating junk food at midnight, we are able to have a good time, and our lives are happier, funnier and richer because of it.
I’d like to leave you with the words of one of my roommates: “I usually act a certain way when I first meet someone, but I knew you were eventually going to figure me out so I was just myself around you from the start.”