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August 19th, 2014

The Mandatory Yearlong Relationship

A guide to getting along with roommates the first year of college


dorm-room-roommatesAh, the beginning of freshman year of college. The living situation is dreaded by students and parents alike: parents because of empty nest syndrome, and students because of roommates. In all honesty, new college students will not be living on their own; they’ll be sharing their space with one, two, even three people at school. Dorm life does not stop at sharing physical space; it grows into sharing time (waking up, going to bed, watching TV), sharing responsibilities, and sharing personalities. Living with people means getting along with others in the most extreme sense: you are literally coexisting with someone else. It may seem like a lot to process, but do not fret! Busted Halo® interviewed Vickki Massy, the assistant director of Residential Life at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus in New York City, and asked for some counsel for incoming freshman.

Busted Halo: What do you think are the hardest and easiest parts of living in a college dorm?
Vickki Massy: The hardest part of living at college is probably making friends and lifelong connections. When you move in, everything is going so fast, which makes finding your voice and building connections more difficult. Luckily, those connections you make will likely last until after graduation.

The easiest part of living at college is also making friends, since you’re in a setting where everyone is in the same circumstance as you: being a new person and living in a new place. It’s very exciting going to school on campus and getting to know other people. The hard part is just breaking out of your shell; but, once you do, making new friends is very easy.

“It’s very exciting going to school on campus and getting to know other people. The hard part is just breaking out of your shell; but, once you do, making new friends is very easy.”
BH: How was your experience, freshman year, with rooming?
VM: My freshman year was a very long time ago (1999!) My experience was great because I was in a suite-style apartment my first year, so I had a roommate and four other suite-mates. We had three bedrooms, a living room and a bathroom — one bathroom for six girls was a challenge! Our RA was a great upperclassman who understood and helped us with what we were going through, since we were all freshmen. It was cool: we had our differences, so it was important to make sure that we all followed the roommate contract. We still keep in touch to this day.
BH: What advice would you give to someone who is freaking out about leaving home and moving to college?
VM: Don’t freak out: that’s the worst thing to do! Come with an open mind, know that you’re going to be safe and that there are people around you who will support you and help you if you need it. Your RA and RD are going to be the most supportive people to look to your freshman year. Also, go to programs and venture outside your comfort zone. That way, you’ll be able to meet more people than just those who live in your building and ease the friend-making process.

BH: What is the biggest difference between living at college and living at home, besides the location change?
VM: Taking ownership of your stuff is a big one. But also, being your true self and getting to know who that person is and how he/she lives independently. There is the freedom of doing what you want on campus versus living at home. You probably get freedom at home, but you do not have a curfew when you’re here on campus. You have to be able to make smart decisions, like going out at night or choosing to stay in and do homework. You must be much more independent at school.
BH: What would you say to someone who is having trouble with his or her roommate but is nervous about confrontation?
VM: Seek out your RA — helping you with those difficult conversations, especially with people you live with, is what they are there for. I would suggest that, with the help of the RA, you have an honest conversation about how you guys are going to navigate living throughout the year. If it is something that you guys cannot seem to work through, then try to start working with your RA and your RD on a room switch.
“You probably get freedom at home, but you do not have a curfew when you’re here on campus. You have to be able to make smart decisions, like going out at night or choosing to stay in and do homework.”
BH: What’s the best way to solve problems and confront a roommate if you are comfortable with confrontation?
VM: Be open, honest and communicate! Do not let things build up to a point where you are just angry with the other person. If something that your roommate does is bothering you, take them somewhere that’s more comfortable than the dorm where you always are. Take a walk to Starbucks (or another calm place) and have an honest conversation with them, either that day or that week. Talking to them soon will help to avoid grudges.
BH: Worst case scenario: something valuable goes missing, and you think your roommate took it. What do you do?
VM: In a subtle way (I’m not confrontational, personally), ask a question: “Hey, did you see [insert item here]? I last saw it [insert location] … do you know what happened to it?” Then, if they deny having seen it, look for it yourself again, just to make sure it is truly missing. If you feel like that person is being dishonest, then have someone like your RA or RD step in and have a conversation with both of you. You just have to be honest with them because you’re living with them for more than half the year.
BH: Let’s say that all of my friends picked their roommates, but I’m going random. Should I be worried?
VM: Until you get the final rooming assignment and you can actually see whom you are rooming with, do not worry. Because then you can use social media to see what they look like and what type of person they are before you meet them. I would not be nervous, because you are here to learn and learn about other people and how to live with other people. If you are not open and open-minded about that, then you can ruin your own living on campus.
BH: Do you think friends should try to live together?
VM: You do not necessarily have to be best friends with your roommate, but you should be cordial with them. If you do not end up living with your best friend, do not worry about it. I actually do not encourage friends to live together because they will probably end up wanting distance. If you are always around your friends but you live with someone else, then you will not have to go back to the apartment and see them more and get sick of them.

Check out more helpful resources like this one in our Dorm Room Care Package.

The Author : Morgan Francis
Morgan is an undergraduate student at Fordham University looking to get her degree in marketing. She's a New Jersey native and loves working and going to school in New York City. She hopes to one day live in New York City in between frequent trips abroad.
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