If you’re headed to college this August and decided to “go rando” and live with a stranger, you’re probably freaking out a little bit (okay, a lot). It’s awkward, meeting someone for the first time on the day you’re set to spend an entire year together in a dorm room! Here’s the thing: It’s going to be okay; we promise. In fact, it’ll probably be more than okay— it’s going to be great! Living with someone new opens you up to different perspectives, experiences and opportunities you wouldn’t get by living with a BFF (although, keeping in touch with them is important too)! Plus, it’s totally fun to decorate with a roommate. We chatted with Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist and teen/parenting expert, about five easy ways to help you ease any of that inevitable initial discomfort.
1. Keep it light. Ask your roommate about their class schedule, what their high school was like and where they think you should hang your DIY lettered wall art, but try to keep the boyfriend drama and post-high school existential trauma at a minimum. You may feel a sense of faux-intimacy because you’re living together, but remember you don’t actually know this person yet, and you don’t want to blur boundaries before your first class even begins.
2. Schedule it out. Once you’ve gotten to know each other better, it’s crucial that you talk openly about ground rules and living expectations, Dr. Greenberg says. You don’t need to actually set a schedule (unless you want to!), but talking up-front about how much personal time you each need, what your cleaning responsibilities will each be, what your study habits are and what your sleep schedule looks like will make you both feel understood and comfortable.
3. Be open. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to hold in your feelings, Dr. Greenberg says, especially when you have a problem. Whether it’s a small pet peeve, like your roommate’s friends sitting on your bed (ew!), or a bigger resentment, like their drunk friends crash in your room every night (ugh!), you have to be honest about how you feel. Otherwise, you’ll end up exploding two months later, inevitably “bringing up the kitchen sink,” with your beef… which definitely isn’t productive.
4. Don’t rush. “You share a space, not a life,” Dr. Greenberg reminds, so “don’t expect your roomie to be your BFF.” She says that by imposing any sort of expectations, you’re setting up the relationship for disappointment. “There’s no sense of urgency,” Dr. Greenberg says, and just like any other relationship, this one “needs space and time” to grow organically. Dr. Greenberg suggests going to a couple meals and introducing yourselves to your hall mates together at first; you’ll feel more confident having a buddy for both activities and it will also open you up to meeting new people in the process.
5. Trust your intuition. Ninety-nine percent of the time, even if you and your new roomie don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, you’ll get through your first year together just fine. Sometimes, though, situations can escalate far beyond what a simple heart-to-heart can fix. If you feel like something shady is going on, Dr. Greenberg says not to hesitate to talk to your resident assistant for back-up. You’re in school to learn and grow, and a relaxed, safe living situation is critical to your success!
Are you headed to your first year of college this month? Tweet us @BritandCo and tell us what you’re most excited about!
(Photo via Getty)