Like any other incoming student, I passed the summer before college planning my life for the next four years. A major component of this ideal life revolved around having the perfect relationship with my roommates but I soon realized that this would not be possible. In the coming year, there would be a lot of times when I was in tears because of one of my roommates.
Looking back, there are a lot of things I wish I had done differently during those first few weeks when my relationship with my roommate was still malleable. But while I can’t “Marty McFly” my past, my unpleasant experience did leave me with lessons that can help other students avoid roommate hell. Here are my personal tips to help you get off to a good start with your roommate:
Be honest during your roommate contract discussions
The roommate contract is an exhaustive document covering guidelines and boundaries to avoid potential conflicts and is handed to every room during week zero. Roommates are supposed to establish these guidelines after a thorough discussion and then sign the contract in the presence of a floor RA.
The discussion is a good opportunity to note the things that might annoy your roommates which you can then avoid. However, to fully utilize this opportunity, roommates need to honest about pet peeves and not underplay bad habits.
I definitely underplayed how late I stayed up and came back to my room, and these became huge points of contention later since my roommate was a light sleeper.
If you do notice that you are utterly incompatible with your roommates, it’s better to move out during week zero than in the middle of the school year with the terror of the quarter system upon you.
Establish ways to resolve conflict
A tiny room shared under stressful circumstances is a breeding ground for conflict. No matter how close you and roommates are, there will be moments when you will fight over genuine problems. During those instances, it’s good to have some sort of conflict resolution protocol in place.
This protocol doesn’t have to revolve around a direct conversation. For example, my roommates and I used our common group chat to work through problems since one of us was uncomfortable with direct confrontation.
You can also involve your resident assistant – who is trained to handle these situations – to act as a mediator if you’re easily intimidated. While it would be ideal for your RA to be in the room while you and your roommates talk, in extreme cases your RA can also talk to your roommates on your behalf.
Having an established way to communicate problems reduces the fear of direct confrontation which is one of the main causes of passive-aggressive behavior and can be one of the worst ways to deal with a problem. Roommates won’t know the exact reason for your annoyance, and they might get irked because of your behavior.
However, just because you have a protocol for conflict resolution doesn’t mean that you should use it for every small annoyance. Pick your battles. If you don’t, your roommate will start ignoring you after a point or be stubborn when it comes to big issues. If you have to dish out salt, the UCLA Secrets page is an excellent space where to maintain anonymity while airing dirty laundry.
Don’t bring unnecessary stuff
While Pinterest and other websites may be amazing sources for decor inspiration, the items that these websites may list as “essentials” can be unnecessary for triple-style living. Unnecessary items will just clutter an already small room, making it more claustrophobic and harder to clean up.
Students often make the mistake of buying excessive storage because they underestimate the inbuilt storage capacities of UCLA’s rooms. Buy additional storage after moving in. Target is a short walk away in Westwood, Bed Bath & Beyond has a stall on the Hill during move-in weekend and the UCLA mailroom and the Amazon Lockers make it easy to order items online.
For a visual understanding of how cramped the rooms can be, there are excellent videos on Youtube about UCLA dorms, and Facebook groups like UCLA Housing and UCLA Sublets/Apartments can answer most storage questions.
This research will also help while buying communal items because all rooms already have mirrors and some room types already come with a central heating, ventilating and air conditioning system.
It’s always a good idea to check in with roommates before you bring any shelving units or visible ground items into the room. Asking your roommates beforehand will prevent any future disputes and resentment over the division of communal room space.
Despite these steps, there is a chance that things might still not work out, and that’s completely normal. In that case, it would be best to explore housing options on Facebook groups or through the official UCLA dorm room swap.
There isn’t much of a difference between bravery and stupidity when it comes to your rooming situation, so when things get rough with your roommates, disregard the old English idiom about toughness and get going. There are a lot of college experiences worth having, but a situation with a bad roommate is one you can definitely skip.