With college life comes many ups and downs: far too much freedom, an overwhelming amount of responsibilities, and, maybe worst of all (at least for some of us), dealing with roommates. Having college roommates is something we all have to struggle with for at least one year, and even when we are close friends with them, disaster can still strike. Because living with someone in tight quarters is bound to form some kind of drama, it’s important to know what to do in case sticky situations escalate. To get the realest advice, I chatted with Nick Kirkstadt, an area coordinator for residential communities at George Washington University, to provide tips on what to do in the cases of various roommate scenarios from real students.
Horror Story #1: The Silent-Treatment Roommate
“When I met my freshman year roommate, I tried my best to get to know her and be friends. But right off the bat, I knew this wouldn’t be the case. After only a month of living together, we already had completely separate friends. One day, one of her friends confided in me that they had gone through my desk drawers and looked through my personal belongings. It got to the point where I would walk into my room and she wouldn’t even look at me. Almost every day she would go into our neighbor’s room and loudly shriek about things, while in our room she was completely silent. I finally decided to try and move in with one of my friends, and when I told her, she cried. Neither of us liked each other, but she was personally offended that I wanted out of our toxic living situation. Unfortunately, the room swap didn’t work out, and we were awkwardly stuck with one another for at least two more months.” — Student at George Washington University
What to do: Living with a new person, especially your freshman year, is never easy, and it’s even worse when the other doesn’t even give you the time of day to discuss issues. Nick says the best thing to do in this situation is “to confront your roommate about how their actions make you feel. Using ‘I’ statements instead of accusing goes a long way. Before any problems can arise, it is best to discuss expectations when it comes to quiet hours, sharing items, and personal space. If you find out from another person that your roommate is going through your belongings, it may be best to reach out to your RA to discuss strategies on how best to confront your roommate and neutralize the situation.” Although the situation escalated when the roommate was upset when the other wanted to move out, Nick still says that honesty is the best solution and that possibly finding her a new, more suitable roommate may mediate the conflict.
Horror Story #2: The Roommate With a Surprise Pet
“I had a random roommate, and we were civil and nice to each other. We didn’t really talk much, but a month into living with her, she comes back to our apartment one day with a pit bull puppy without telling me or asking me if she could have it. She also asked me to take care of it for her while she went out. We got a noise complaint from our neighbors, and were also fined because she didn’t register the dog, which was a restricted breed. Worst of all, she blamed me for the whole thing and ended up moving out a month later.” — Student at Towson University
What to do: This situation gets a bit stickier as it deals with legal issues, where it’s almost impossible to place the blame on only one roommate. Nick says that because it is difficult for the university to determine blame for situations that involve pets, it’s better to be communicative with your roommate from the very beginning. Nick states that “being honest and straightforward is key. If your roommate continues to break policy after you express concern, then it’s best to bring in an outside party (like an RA or residence director). It’s noble to try and keep your roommate from getting in trouble, just not at your own expense.”
Horror Story #3: The Roommate Who Refused Confrontation
“My three roommates and I got along great for the beginning of the semester, but halfway through, one of my roommates acted annoyed at the other three of us 24/7 and we had no idea why. Eventually, she confided in me that she hated one of my other roommates who also happened to be my best friend. My roommate wouldn’t confront my best friend and instead came to me to vent. She would call her horrible names, complain about every little thing she did, and blame her for all her problems. But as mad as my roommate would get, she would never confront my friend about trying to find a solution. Things got so uncomfortable that eventually, she decided to move out. A few months later, my friend reached out to her and asked if they could meet to talk about the issue. Instead of accepting her request, my former roommate cussed us all out on social media and completely cut us off. Even though my former roommate put me in an uncomfortable position between her and my best friend, she was still my friend and losing that friendship over something that could have been avoided hurt a lot.” — Student at Loyola University of Chicago
What to do: The above is evidence that it’s not always ideal to live with people you are close with. According to Nick, “It’s best to communicate and understand the type of person your future roommate is before you move in. When you are put in a situation of being the middleman, especially when you do not want to be, try reaching out to your RA. Also, make sure you have conversations about roommate expectations that go beyond when just the lights get turned on and off. You should also discuss friendship expectations like: How do you respond when someone’s feelings are hurt? What do you do when one friend has an issue with another friend? How do you address a friend that is not adhering to the roommate agreement?” At the end of the day, relationships change and people drift apart, so understanding this from the very beginning could have prevented the situation.
Horror Story #4: The Messy Roommate
“My former roommate was really bad at picking up after herself. My roommates and I didn’t pay much mind to it at first, but then the situation turned from not doing dishes to leaving food wrappers and at one point bloody tissues (yikes!) on her bed. The old wrappers and bloody tissues would fall onto my other roommate’s bed and mine as well. I was always afraid to confront her about the problem.” — Student at Palomar College
What to do: Practically everyone will have a roommate that does not clean up after themselves, so the situation is a fairly easy one to fix unless it is completely avoided. Nick says to, as always, “have discussions on cleaning expectations with your roommate(s) right from the start. Setting ground rules is a great start, and even setting up a cleaning schedule can prevent many of these issues. You have to make sure that you are direct in your own expectations; however, make sure that your expectations are not unrealistic. I suggest starting with a conversation and then talking to an RA about creating a roommate agreement.” These issues are usually solved by a conversation, but if the mess still continues, Nick says to take further action, which includes talking to a residence director or area coordinator to create a binding roommate agreement or even switch rooms.
Do you have any roommate horror stories with tips on how to fix them worth sharing? Comment them below!
Opening image by Sarah Gargano.