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The Daily Illini

Simple kindness makes a good roommate into a great one

Jacqueline Betthauser, Staff writer

Whether your roommate is your best friend, someone that you met on Facebook or an entirely random roommate paired with you by University Housing, the first night of college can be a little awkward.

Questions like, “Can I turn the light off now?” and disclaimers such as, “Wake me up if my snoring bothers you,” will make you realize that you’re probably a little out of your comfort zone.

Growing up with a twin sister, I considered myself to be a professional at sharing. Even for me, the first night of college was still weird. Despite the potential for initial awkwardness, living with someone can turn into a great experience if you put in the effort.

Since the first day of school, I have gotten to know my roommate — who I had met through the Class of 2020 Facebook page — extremely well. Today, she is one of my best friends on campus.

I feel very fortunate to have such an awesome roommate, but I know that this is not the case for everyone. You’re not obligated to be best friends with them; simply coexisting works for plenty of people. However, many factors distinguish a great roommate experience from a good one and are worth trying if you want to improve your situation.

Mutual respect

Students come from all over the world to attend the University; thus, roommates may have different customs and values. Obviously, not everyone is going to agree on decisions regarding the room or life in general. Despite these differences, roommates should express mutual respect.

Respect includes being mindful of your roommate’s opinions and values, even if they differ from your own, and treating their personal belongings with care. For instance, my roommate has the amazing ability to fall asleep with the lights on, but I do not have this superpower.

When I am ready to go to sleep, she understands that the lights need to be off, so she will often use a nightlight or find somewhere else to study. She is always accommodating: she respects my sleep schedule, and I respect hers.

Good communication

Great roommates practice open and honest communication. Without proper communication, problems may arise that could have been completely avoided if one roommate had told the other how they feel about something.

For example, my twin sister — who I love, but who has a self-admitted flare for the dramatic — was looking into the process of getting a single room after two days of school because her roommate kept leaving things on her bed. With the full knowledge of how much she hates things on her bed, I advised her simply to tell her roommate that it bothers her.

After she had told her that she likes keeping her bed clean (her roommate stopped setting things on it), they talked about other pet peeves that they have, and their dynamic completely changed. They went from being enemies living in close quarters to good friends.

Supporting your roommate

Supporting your roommate is arguably the most meaningful thing you can do, and it can differentiate a great dorm experience from just a good one. College is a busy time and feeling like someone supports and cares about you can make it much less stressful.

While I would not recommend missing out on precious sleep, I really look forward to my late-night chats with my roommate about our days. Whenever one of us has an awful day, we shamelessly rant to each other about it. When we’re in better moods, we tell each other about our good days and successes too.

For example, when I made it into an a cappella group, I called my mom and then immediately texted my roommate because I knew that she would be genuinely excited for me. Being there for one another turns this shoebox of a room into a home.

Great roommate experiences may not happen for everyone, but still, try to do your part by being the best roommate that you can be. Be respectful, communicate, and support your roommate and maybe they will start to mirror these behaviors.

Even just general kindness and understanding can make the room a welcoming place like no other. Again, you do not have to be best friends with your roommate, but if you feel like you want to better your relationship with your roommate, then give these actions a try and see how they go. Having a college roommate is a really unique experience, so just try to enjoy it while you can and make the best of it.

Jacqueline is a freshman in LAS.

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