Harlan Cohen (Author) gives expert video advice on: What can I expect from a college roommate?; Should I expect to be best friends with my roommate?; How can I get to know my roommate before classes begin? and more...
What can I expect from a college roommate?
It goes back to that, “expecting the unexpected.” Too many students start off with these rigid expectations that their roommate is going to be their best friend, their roommate is going to be very similar to them, their roommate is going to be all of these things, and their roommate doesn't meet those expectations. And now, with Facebook and Myspace, there are so many ways to hate your roommate before ever even meeting your roommate. You might expect to hate your roommate. You might expect this based on what you've researched. Again, at the minimum, just expect to share space and expect to get along. Anything else is just a big bonus.
Should I expect to be best friends with my roommate?
Your roommate might be your best friend, man, and that would be awesome. My roommate wasn't my best friend. Actually, my roommate and I don't even talk anymore. He started this "silent treatment" thing. It was my first freshman year, and we we're living together, and he decided he wasn't going to talk to me anymore. And it was interesting, because I decided I was going to still talk to him. I even talked to him more, which was amazing. So we didn't end up being best friends. We didn't even turn out to be friends, and I was really nice. Like, I would go out to eat and I'd be like, "Hey, I'm going to go grab something to eat, if you're not hungry, don't say anything." And he wouldn't say anything, and I'd be like, "Alright then, cool. I'm just trying to be polite." But then, I had another roommate in my second freshman year, who I just saw the other day and we're great friends. So, you never know what you're going to get. Your roommate might be your best friend, and your roommate might not be your best friend. The best advice is to give your roommate permission to not be your best friend. Give your roommate permission to not love everything you do. Give your roommate permission to be whoever he or she is. And, at the minimum, as I've said before, expect to share space, and expect to get along. If you want to get along, you should find a way to get along.
What is 'The Naked Roommate'?
There are three forms of 'The Naked Roommate'. There is the "Look at me, I'm naked!" roommate. They want you to see who they are. Then there's the "Don't look at me, I'm naked!" roommate, and that roommate will do anything to avoid you making contact with their nakedness. Sometimes they'll change in a closet, sometimes they'll change in a bag. They'll create distractions, "Look!", and then they'll "drop drawers" and change real quickly. There's also the "Oh my God, I can't believe you saw me (or us)!" roommate. That's the third form, and that's usually the surprise entrance. Those are three forms of 'The Naked Roommate'.
What if I don't get along with my roommate?
About half of all roommates, according to the Higher Education Research Institute, have issues with their roommates; so it's normal. But the thing is most students don't confront these issues because they're like, "I can't talk about something that's going to upset my roommate", because you're in a new place, you're feeling uncomfortable, new feelings, and the last thing you ever want to do is say something critical of your roommate. Therefore what happens is something like a gum wrapper becomes a huge issue where you have this amazing and incredible brawl followed by a huge all-out fight ,because there are so many other issues that have led to that gum wrapper, and that's a real story. These guys were going at it, like extreme fighting, and it's pretty insane. But what you need to do is set a precedent early, and what I say is when you get into that room, you tell your roommate, "hey, I've never lived with someone before. If I do something that makes you uncomfortable, let me know, and I hope it's cool if you do something that makes me uncomfortable, I can let you know." Because if you can set this precedent early, instead of having a huge confrontation, you can have conversations and these little things that we do just because of who we are. They don't have to become these big issues. They can just become conversations. "Hey, you know, maybe you can do that differently or maybe I can do this differently. And if you can talk from the beginning, then you're guaranteed to have a great relationship if you both want to get along.
What can I do if my roommate's significant other is always sleeping over?
Always sleeping in your room, now that can be a great thing if your roommate's significant is always sleeping in the room, it's your room too, so you can hang out there too, you can listen, you can watch, it could be a learning experience, but typically it's not like that. Usually people get really uncomfortable with the idea of someone else doing these things in the same room, and it becomes a huge source of aggravation, and there are things you can do. You can call your parents, and be like, "Hey, I can't believe that my roommate is sleeping with everybody on the planet!" Or you can call your best friend, you can text them or email. You can put up a website about how much you hate your roommate, or you could talk to them. Indeed if you've set the precedent about what makes you uncomfortable, and saying you hope you can tell them, and you could deal with that with each other, then you could talk about that and finally deal with a roommate whose always over. But if you can't find a resolution, that's when you have your RA, or your CA, or whatever you call them, who comes in and helps to intervene. Because the thing is, students, especially new students, are so afraid to say what they feel to their roommate, because they don't want their roommate to hate them. So, if you're someone who's so terribly shy and so afraid, that's when you really need to use your resident's life support staff to help you get comfortable. Don't let your parents be the ones to call, it's not their job, you're the one to do it, so think of it that way.
Should I live with my best friend freshman year?
Living with your best friend sounds like it could be an amazing idea. Especially if you love hanging out with them, this is great. But the thing is often times, spending 24/7 with someone you already know runs a huge risk. The risk factor is that you might not end up being great friends at the end of the six periods. I mean, when you live with a stranger, strangers tend to try harder to be your friend. This is a great example, if you know him and let's say your friend has gas. Your best friend is just going to fart. Am I correct? But if you are living with a stranger, they are going to maybe walk into the corner, do a tester, see if it smells and then they are going to expel gas. So it's just that common courtesy thing. Now living with a best friend does not risk that you might not be friends with that person at the end of the year. But if you live with a stranger, I mean it's great, because you end up not liking someone you never even know. So you are not losing anything, but there's a chance you might get along and then you get to know that persons friends. And your best friend may be living down the hall and is living with a stranger and may be they'll get along and you get to know their friends or if one of you isn't getting on with your new roommate, you can always hang out with the other person. And still have that space. You can live together whether you are a junior, senior, double senior, triple senior; you always have that option, but to sort of live with your best friend is a bad idea
What if I'm straight, and my roommate is gay or lesbian?
Well, the beautiful thing about college life is you end up living with people who you don't always expect to live with. You might be surprised to find out that you're living with a heterosexual roommate. That might be shocking to you, because you might be expecting to live with a gay, lesbian, or bisexual roommate. Or, you might be someone who's heterosexual, and find out you're living with a gay, lesbian, or bisexual roommate. Now, a lot of people react by running, hiding, or attacking. That's what we do when we're uncomfortable. That becomes our knee-jerk reaction; to run and hide, or run and attack. This happens especially with college as so many new things are happening. Sometimes students do that when someone is different than what they're used to. My suggestion is this: if your roommate is comfortable with his or her sexuality, if you know they're gay or lesbian, and it's pretty obvious, then you can actually approach that person, and be like, "Hey, do you mind if I ask you some questions?" I've spoken to diversity groups, and hundreds of orientations, and people who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual come up to me and say, "Thank you. We don't mind answering these questions.". Say, "You know, I've never lived with someone who's gay before, and can I ask you a few things?" Say what it is that's on your mind, and try to do it in a gentle way, and you will then have a discussion about these topics. But you need to set that precedent, "If something makes me uncomfortable, I'll hold back and let you know, and you can do the same for me". So then you can have this open dialogue. You might be shocked, you might discover that you learn things about yourself, and learn things about someone else. Chances are, throughout your lifetime, you'll encounter people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual and it's pretty much everywhere, so you might as well learn to get comfortable with it. But if you're someone who reacts like "I just can't deal with that," well, instead of making that person's life hell, for who they are, quietly just move away, and let that person have their space. And the last thing I'll say, if you're someone who wants to get comfortable, there are gay, lesbian, and bisexual resources on virtually every campus. If your campus doesn't have it, there's one on another campus, or online, and ask the questions that you want to ask your roommate first, to get a sense of the best way to approach the situation.