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7 Tips for Living in Harmony with your College Roommates

Updated on April 15, 2016


Yes, I’ll admit it; I had no idea what I was getting into on that first day at the college hostel. I hadn’t been away from home before and I was scared and excited. You want to call someone who’ll tell you it’s okay, but that feels like you’re not being a grown-up. Does that makes sense?

So, I was on my own in a new world, populated by aliens! Or, were they? It’s enough to deal with a tougher level of academic work, never mind all these strangers and, believe me, some of them can be quite strange! You’ve had your lifetime, so far, to get used to the quirks and weirdness of family and friends, but this is different. You’re not related to these people, so why should you bother? Because this is what life is.

College is a rehearsal for the rest of your life. If you can make it here, you’ll have a head start on what comes next. To make it even easier, here are seven lessons I learned that may help you:

Patience – Don’t Judge a Book by its Torn Jeans:

I was quick to dismiss many people at first because their ‘image’ didn’t meet my standards. That boy was a gugu, that girl wears too much make-up, blah blah blah. But that gugu brought me chai (you will survive college on chai and maggi) when I was sick and that girl was smarter than a top quiz team. It opened my eyes. If I was too hasty and shunned people at first glance, I was missing out on some of the best friends I could ever have.

Boundaries – Set Yours and Respect Others:

Often, within a family, privacy is a rare commodity and boundaries are ignored. You can’t import this attitude into college life. To minimise friction in your new world, let people know where your limits are and honour theirs. For example: never ‘borrow’ something without asking. I once came back to my room and found a dorm mate trying on my clothes! I’d allowed a friend to borrow them and she’d extended the favour to a friend of hers! Be firm, but polite, when spelling out what is acceptable behaviour for you. Likewise, abide by the personal rules that others set.

Self-reliance – None of us is Royalty:

Some Indian parents have Ph.D.s in Spoiling their children. You’ll meet Prince Never-Cleaned-Anything and Princess Doesn’t-Pick-Up-After-Herself. These people are NOT role models. To survive and prove yourself as an adult, take responsibility for your chores and upkeep. Keep your space and self spic and span, and leave common areas cleaner than you found them. Watch out for the Prince and Princess, they may try to manipulate you into doing their dirty work for them (refer to point 2.). Unless they’re willing to pay for your tuition, don’t let them con you – they won’t respect you and your compliance will make you an easy target for others.

Tolerance – Culture is a Rainbow:

Diversity is what makes human beings perennially interesting. If we were all alike, we’d probably die out due to boredom. Whether it be choices in politics and religion, or our innate sexuality, everyone’s different. If someone’s opinions or orientation rub you the wrong way, take a breath. You have enough going on in your own life without judging other people. You can bet that some of your own beliefs will be unpopular, so if you want your fellow students to respect you, show them that you’re mature enough to accept their differences.

Goals – Be the Leader in Your Life: Independence is Seductive.

This may be the first time you’re totally in charge of your time and activities, and it’s natural to test your wings. The problem is you will meet people whose only goal will be to enjoy themselves until they get kicked out.

Don’t let them encourage or bait you into following their downward path. Keep your goals in sight and learn to balance fun and work. You don’t have to be a martyr to your studies, but you need to learn to say ‘no’ to the party crowd. If you stick to your plan, you’ll end up with greater accomplishments and a better class of friend.

Love – College Dating is a Minefield:

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to live for months next to someone you’ve dated and dumped? What if the romance is a success? How focused will you be on your courses if your heart and hormones are constantly in flux?

Dating within your dorm mates is a minefield and you’ll need to consider all the ramifications before you accept or ask for that first date. College is stressful enough without adding the drama of failed or successful romances, and the only way you’re going to keep them in perspective is to remember that the college experience is just the first step on your path to true maturity, not the destination. Your ultimate goal is a degree and overall life experience; the love of your life can come later.

Friendship – Favours, Loyalty and Generosity:

My father gave me the best advice on money: never loan money to a friend or relative. If you want them to have it, give it freely. A loan permanently changes the relationship for the worse. Favours are different. We all need help and will be more likely to receive it if we’ve already proved ourselves generous. You and your dorm mates are in an ‘accidental’ team. Nobody chose the members, but you’re stuck with each other and can make life easier all round if you support one another.

When you see someone struggling, reach out. Be a force for uniting your new community. Who knows how many of these people could be your friends for life?


College is one of those pivotal experiences that will define who you become as a complete adult. If you survive and succeed through these years, what comes next will be less frightening and confusing. Make the most of your time and keep it as stress-free as possible by taking what you need from this advice.

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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      The point from last section - Never give load to a friend or relative is so true and effective to keep relations healthy.


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