Roommates from Hell and the RAs who save us

Chrissy Miller, Administration reporter

 

Coming to a university may be many students’ first time having a roommate. Unfortunately, not all roommates know how to play nice.

Sandy Esparza, a sophomore sociology major, said she has seen how damaging some roommate situations can be.

“My freshman year, the girls next door were always bickering,” Esparza said. “One day they had to call the (Resident Assistant) and the person from the counseling center to break up a fight because they were just going at it, and arguing a lot.”

Esparza said one of the roommates had to request a room change.

Julia Bautista, a freshman civil engineering major, said her biggest issue with roommates has been lack of basic communication, including a roommate who wouldn’t even say ‘bless you’ when Bautista sneezed.

“I’m a freshman so the fact that I’ve had two roommates within two semesters tells you a lot about my roommates,” Bautista said.

Bautista said her first roommate was nice but a little awkward. She said it took her roommate a while to open up, with her roommate going home most of the time, so she would rarely see her.

“When it was the week of finals she came and she came just to get her stuff,” Bautista said. “She told me it was nothing personal and it was just her.”

Lindsay Wilson, interim assistant director of the counseling center, said that roommate issues are common.

“Whether a student presents to our center with roommate issues or it comes up some time in the semester, roommate conflict or concerns can be common. However, with open communication, cooperation, and compromise, they can typically be worked through,” Wilson said.

Wilson said most roommate problems stem from something as simple as miscommunication.

“Being open to working on things that may help your roommate feel more comfortable can go a long way. Using reflective listening may also be helpful. Reflective listening can not only show that you are listening, but it can also check for accuracy, to make certain you are understanding them correctly.”

Wilson said establishing healthy boundaries and practicing self-care might help to relieve stress about a difficult roommate situation.

“Talking with your RA may be a helpful resource to keep in mind,” Wilson said. “If talking with your roommate isn’t working or doesn’t appear to be a good option, sharing your concerns with your RA may be an important step.”

RA Frank Monier said roommate issues he’s had to resolve in the past with his residents is due to a lack of communication.

“They’re just expecting their roommate to read their mind and understand how they live, versus how the other person lives,” Monier said.

Frank said when his residents sit down him to talk with him about roommate disputes, they often end up realizing lack of communication was to blame for their issues. However, if talking to the RA of the floor does not clear up the dispute, Monier said that some people do not work out as a roommate pair. In these cases, the RA may involve the Assistant Residence Director to look into getting the person a different room.

“During the first six weeks, we call it the honeymoon phase, or the newlywed phase I guess. You’re kind of meeting this new person and are trying to be best friends with your new roommate so everything seems great,” Monier said.

He said that communication can crumble quickly after this phase is over.

Usually, if you know your roommate coming in as a freshman it doesn’t work out, statistically speaking,” Monier said. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t.”

Monier said he recommends moving in with someone you do not know freshman year to make the most of the freshman experience. He also said going to the roommate is much better than talking about them behind their back when there is a problem.

“My advice is don’t go around and talk about your roommate behind their back because that’s probably one of the biggest issues people have. Instead of confronting their roommate about issues that they feel like they’re having, they go and they talk to their friends and complain about their roommate,” Monier said. “If you need to talk about your roommate when your roommate is not there to get all the details in so you can figure out what to say to them, that’s fine.”

RA Neiv Hans said every roommate dispute is unique. Hans said most issues with roommates happen after the first few weeks.

“By the third week, I had girls knocking on my door left and right wanting to switch roommates, move floors or kick their friend out. Most of the time, the girls came to complain about their roommate in private because they were afraid of what their roommate might think,” Hans said.

Hans said this situation is actually a blessing in disguise because when starting the discussion, she knows at least one thing they agree on, and it provides a good place to start. Hans said roommate agreements, which outline agreements about the roommates’ living environment from bed times to cleaning the room should be kept, are extremely helpful when settling disputes.

“Resident Assistants are gifted with what we call roommate agreements,” Hans said. “From what I have seen in my first year as an RA, once we have acknowledged who needs to be responsible for what, I have never had to re-address what the roommates and I discussed. To me, the roommate agreement is a key solution for a successful roommate experience.”

Hans said the way to have a pleasant roommate experience is to create a sense of balance.

“The best roommates I have seen do not invade each other’s space. They hang out with other people. They complete their homework at the library some nights. They are in different activities,” Hans said. “From what I know, too much time spent together creates the most drastically toxic relationships.”

Now that she is an RA Hans no longer has a roommate, Hans said she misses the experience.

“I miss spontaneous movie nights, being greeted at the door, trying to be each other’s tutors, dragging each other to the gym, decorating the room, and the late night, lights-off conversations,” Hans said “I really, truly, honestly miss that and I hope whoever is reading this has the chance to do the same.”

 

Chrissy Miller can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]