It is freshman move-in day and you have exchanged emails with your new roommate, but you have never met her in person. A trail of balloons and posters lead you to the check-in table where you sign by your name and are handed the key to your room. You take a deep breath, grab the first load of boxes from your car, and head toward your room: it is time to meet the person you are going to be living with for the next year.
The door is unlocked and your roommate is already inside, unpacking with her family. You say hello and all of the various family members exchange greetings. Next, a flurry of handshakes and the usual “Nice to meet you,” “How are you?” and
“How was the drive?” Your family helps you bring in the last of your boxes and by then your roommate is pretty close to being unpacked. You tell your family goodbye and hers makes a move to leave as well. And then...it actually begins.
This person who was just an idea only a few hours ago is right there in front of you, and it is time to get to know each other. Admittedly, this feels like a daunting task, but take a deep breath. Thousands of college freshman have gone before you and made it to other side.
Welcome Week will be full of activities that will give you a chance to get to know your roommate and plenty of other people on campus. Then before you know it, classes have started and you and your roommate have plenty to talk about: homework assignments, favorite classes and professors, and whether to get an on-campus job or not. In the day-to-day of living together in the same space, you will get used to each other pretty quickly.
There are so many different dynamics that go into a quality roommate relationship, but it is all about finding your rhythm.
The bottom line is respect
More than anything, respecting your roommate is key: her space, her sleep schedule, and her way of seeing things. Respect does not mean being a doormat. It means that you are thoughtful of how you treat her and how you share the space. The room belongs to both of you, and ideally it will be a place where you both feel at home. You want it to be the place where you guys can both come and relax after a long day of classes.
Communicate early and often
The most surefire way to know how to respect your roommate is to talk about it up front. In the first week after moving in, talk with your roommate about how the room is arranged and where you guys have decided to put things, especially in shared spaces like kitchen counters and cabinets. Even if there is nothing you want to change, start a dialogue so that she has the space to give any suggestions and so that you have created the kind of environment where later, if anything does come up, you can mention it.
Have realistic expectations
No one can be perfectly quiet when they have an 8:00 A.M. class and need to get ready, but you can definitely keep the lights off and do your major prep in the bathroom. You want to be able to invite your friends in the room, but let your roommate know beforehand. Some days you run out of time to make the bed or do the dishes and the same goes for your roommate. Even if cleanliness is at the top of your list, some days are crazier than others and you just have to let it roll off.
Make plans with your roommate
This may sound a little odd, but it can really help. In the midst of a busy semester, your schedule can fill up pretty quickly. You know you are going to see your roommate and you do see each other in passing all the time, but if you aren’t intentional, you may end up playing the roommate equivalent of phone tag.
Remember the small stuff
Getting a note of encouragement or a box of your favorite granola bars can be the best thing in the middle of a long week. Roommates know what you like, what you don’t like, and when you are absolutely swamped with homework. Every now and then, do something kind and unexpected for your roommate to let her know you appreciate her.
Pray for your roommate.
No roommate is perfect (yourself included), and living with someone who was a stranger only months before is bound to hold at least a few bumps in the road. Pray before you meet her—for your friendship, for her transition to college, for wisdom on how to be a good roommate to her. You will both need the Lord’s help to live well together, but He is faithful to grow us and supply us with the love and patience we need. As you continue to pray throughout the semester, it is cool to see how your prayers go from vague to specific.
When your roommate’s name pops up on your computer screen for the first time, you will probably feel a little thrill of excitement and nervousness in the pit of your stomach. Like so many other things during your freshman year, finding a rhythm with your roommate will take some adjusting to, but it is an opportunity to grow and hopefully to walk alongside someone who becomes a friend.