The initial email was enough to cue a widespread panic among my friends: “Where Will You Live in 2017-18?”
It was one of those questions that we knew we’d have to deal with eventually, but we swept under the rug for the time being. Can you blame us? The whole ordeal of roommate-picking is necessary, but also serves as a great source of awkwardness.
There are friends that you love to death, but can’t stand the idea of living with. There are friends that you desperately want to room with, but they’re already in another group. There are friends that only seem lukewarm to the idea of rooming with you, and those that are hellbent on it.
No one wants to voice their concerns for fear of offending others—or worse yet, ruining friendships.
It’s a balancing act: how do you keep all of your friends happy, while ensuring that you’re not miserable next year?
There are too many variables, too much gambling and guesswork, too many pacts and too many people to please—it all piles up and just feels suffocating.
You’re going to make it through this. You just need to make sure that the housing process doesn’t walk all over you and that you don’t walk all over your friends—simply by asserting yourself and accepting criticism as necessary.
First and foremost: know when to put your foot down. Whether it’s telling someone you don’t want to room with them or that a living habit of theirs is irritating, the prospect of upsetting someone is stressful. And unless people can differentiate rooming critiques from character critiques, some feelings might end up being hurt. But you need to prioritize yourself—don’t risk being miserable next year all for the sake of avoiding awkwardness now.
Acknowledge that there’s a difference between being friends and being roommates. Talking for hours on end with someone is great—until it’s a weeknight, and you have a seven page paper due in six hours but they won’t give you the silence you need to focus. They could be the best chef on campus—but it won’t mean anything to you if they’re not willing to clean up the collateral. Friends are fun, but rooming sometimes isn’t.
Assess what’s important to you in a roommate. Do you want a quiet space but you can’t remain quiet when you’re around each other? Are you a bit on the messier side, but your friend gets antsy when you drop so much as a crumb on the floor? Consider the fact that you might not be compatible and don’t be afraid to voice that concern. If you don’t have the same values for a living space, it might make for some miserable situations next year.
Separate people’s concerns against rooming with you from them insulting you outright. Rooming is a two-way street—if you’re dishing out your qualms with others, allow them to do the same for you. Take criticism with an open mind. If someone says they don’t want to room with you because they can’t tolerate your nighttime habits or room hangout sessions, accept it as a valid concern. You can’t force people to room with people they don’t like—you can decide to change, or just opt for someone else.
And most importantly: relax. Take care of yourself first, and don’t stress too much over setting up ideal suites for your friends—they can handle themselves.
No suite is perfect, so don’t strive for it. Housing is what you make of it; your roommates can be your best friends or people that just inhabit the same space as you. Worst case scenario, you end up in living with a friend and a couple of strangers.
And who knows—maybe they’ll make for some great new friends.
Sarah Taekman is a first-year student majoring in biology.