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First years: Living with someone new

By Erin Shriver
On October 27, 2014

So you think you’ve chosen the perfect roommate at school… but as the weeks go on, you are starting to believe otherwise.

It’s the middle of the semester and things are not going the way they were at the beginning of the year, so what are you going to do about it? Are you going to change roommates the next semester or are you going to try to work things out?

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself “this is me…what do I do?” well... confronting, communicating and mediating are the hardest things to do when in a situation like this.

An article from the Sarah Lawrence College residence life catalog gives tips on how to address each of these issues.

How to address the current issue:

  • Approach your roommate in private
  • Confirm that this is a good time to talk for both of you. If one of you feels rushed or blindsided they would be less able to communicate effectively.
  • Be direct. Discuss the issue with regard to behaviors rather than personality traits. This tactic is less likely to put your roommate on the defense.
  • Be patient. Listen to your roommate and remember that there are two sides to every story.
  • Revisit your roommate contract. Are there certain guidelines that people aren’t following?
  • Remember that a solution will probably involve each person giving something and getting something. The solution may not be your ideal scenario, but it should be an improvement on the current state of things.

Communication with your roommates:

  • Talk to your roommate directly when something is bothering you. Don’t discuss it behind their back because this can cause a breakdown in trust between you.
  • Be direct. Be clear about what is bothering you. If you don’t tell your roommate that there is a problem they won’t be able to do anything about it.
  • Remember that communication works two ways: talking and listening. Neither one is effective without the other.
  • Respect each other’s differences. Everyone has different values, lifestyles, expectations, and communication styles. Get to know each other and establish common ground. It is easier to solve a problem with a friend than a stranger.

Roommate mediation:

  • Contact your RA, either by email, phone, or in person, to explain the situation and to request a mediation.
  • Your RA will contact all roommates to find a time that works best for everyone. It is very important that you allow enough time for people to express themselves and to come up with a solution.
  • Your RA will bring your roommate contract in as a reference. If you need to update your contract, do so at the mediation meeting.
  • Remember, although the RA is a trained mediator, they are not magicians. Some roommate conflicts require a number of mediations before they find a solution. In other cases, you may find that the situation is not working even after you have made an honest attempt at mediation. In those cases, and only in those cases, a room transfer may be the best answer.

Everyone at Ottawa University wants you to have the best experience possible, inside the classroom and in your living area.

You shouldn’t feel threatened or scared to go on campus because of a roommate and your safety is very important to everyone at this school.

Remember that things can be changed, and problems can be worked out, but before any of this can happen, you need to speak up. Don’t be afraid to talk to your RA. That is what they are here for and trained to do.

Make your room an environment where you can hang out with your friends and feel comfortable… Make it feel like your home away from home. 

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