First-years and many transfer students have lived in the dorms for a quarter now. Chances are the dorms haven’t been as magical as they originally imagined. If you and a roommate are in a slump, your fellow dorm residents and resident advisors (RAs) have a few suggestions for resolving conflicts, to become better acquainted and have a less stressful relationship.
Something to remember is communication. If your roommate doesn’t know that there is a problem, they can’t fix it. You don’t like that they leave toothpaste in the sink? Let them know. You don’t like when they wear your shirts? Just explain how you feel.
Ian Han, a first-year biology major living in Thoreau in Cuarto, said that “talking things out” was a large part of dealing with roommate problems, especially with a random roommate.
“It’s a bit challenging to get to know each other; we’re seeing each other for the first time and there are some challenges when we meet,” Han said. “If someone does something that you don’t like, you just talk it out.”
Something to aid this process is the roommate agreement, put into place in all UC Davis dorms with assistance from RAs. This document addresses the general issues that come up that cause turmoil between roommates, such as cleanliness, visitors and quiet hours.
Tiffany Firestone, a junior biology major, has been an RA for two years, in Leach at Tercero last year and in Webster at Cuarto this year, and she lived in Ryerson at Segundo as a first-year. After her extensive dorm life experience, she understands the importance of this document.
“It’s a preventive sheet. Most people will think about or confront something throughout the year, but the roommate agreements make sure that people think about things from the beginning,” Firestone said.
As seen with the roommate agreement, RAs are a main tool to help solve roommate problems.
Emily August, a sophomore RA in Segundo, lived in Tercero as a first-year and after a difficult situation with her random roommate, moved from Wall to Leach. She wanted to become an RA to help incoming first-years avoid such issues.
“I wanted other people’s experience to be different than my own because last year wasn’t the best year. I had a hard time with my roommate and that made everything else hard,” August said.
Both the RAs and the residents believe that being considerate of the other person in your living space is key to a thriving relationship with a roommate. One way to do this is assessing yourself and how what you do affects others.
“The ability to reflect on your actions and being willing to listen to each other [is important],” Firestone said.
Taylor Corey, a first-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major living in Thoreau, lives with her friend from high school, Bridget Herenda, a first-year math major. Whether roommates are random or not, being considerate of each other still applies to keeping a positive relationship.
“We’re very cordial with each other; we try not to wake each other up and we’re nice with each other’s space,” Corey said.
Things like maintaining cleanliness and respecting a roommate’s belongings are all examples of things to pay attention to. It’s also important to acknowledge a roommate’s feelings.
Avery Campbell, a first-year music major living in Han’s suite, outlines a good roommate as someone who is attuned to his personality and habits.
“Our lifestyles are much different — how they are raised versus how I am raised. [A good roommate is] someone who understands me and over time understands how I am different from them and how we can work things out,” Campbell said.
It is also important to develop the ability to be flexible. August sees this as a benefit of the dorms because it is an opportunity to learn how to compromise.
“Just learning how to live with other people, cooperate and make agreements is really beneficial,” August said.
Having a roommate can be difficult and some problems are unsolvable, such as August’s roommate as a first-year, leading her to transfer dorms. However, August said that moving is a last resort and such situations are rare, even with random roommates.
“It’s important to know that it’s not all going to be great,” Firestone said. “You may have that stereotypical horrible roommate that’s messy and you might have the most fantastic roommate ever, but most of the time, it’s a little bit in between and you have to work on compromising.”
As Firestone said, some roommates find that problems are few and far between, like Corey and Herenda. They are close friends as well as roommates and enjoy each other’s company, saying that they have “roommate telepathy,” illustrating how having a roommate can be a very rewarding experience.
“It’s never boring, ever, and it makes the transition [from high school] easier because you are less on your own,” Herenda said.
“You know a person inside and out and you know someone is going to be there if you ever need them,” Corey said. “We’re here through thick and thin.”
DEVON BOHART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org