Roommate Problems

Ask any college student who lived with a roommate at any point during their studies and they will probably have a few stories about a few fights they had with their roommates. It may have been anything from awkward passive aggressive exchanges of comments to full blown threats of assault, but it probably happened. The reasons for these fights vary, but they typically happen because of proximity, being from different backgrounds, having different schedules, problems sharing, and cleanliness issues.

Living in a dorm room is incredibly difficult for many people. The rooms are typically pretty small, and two people have to share this space almost constantly. Many students are used to having their own bedrooms at home, and may have never shared a bedroom with even their brothers or sisters. There is a huge shift to someone constantly being in the space that they use as their bedroom, living room, office, and kitchen. Just being around someone who may have habits that are irritating without another room to escape to can cause incredible tension.

Two students from different backgrounds can present a huge problem. Differing musical tastes, food preferences, and morals can turn two strangers into bitter enemies in a heartbeat. Take a few examples from my own college roommate experience. My first roommate was very into emo bands such as Dashboard Confessional. I happened to find this music incredibly irritating. I listen to mainly country music, something he found to be very aggravating. He insisted that I listen to my “bad” music through headphones while he listened to his emo songs through his speakers. He was unable to accommodate my cultural background into his world, which is something I naturally resented. Junior and senior year I lived with another guy who was a pretty laid back person in most respects, but typically got pretty irritated when I would eat sardines, kippered herring, and Korean food in our room. However we were able to reach the agreement that I would throw away the cans and to go boxes in the far side of the hall right after I finished eating them. Thankfully we had known each other for several years at this point. Going back to my freshman roommate, one of his girlfriends would come from his hometown to visit him, and one time I came back to an empty room and a condom wrapper in the corner. I objected to this going on in my room, and the next time she came down I voiced my objections very strongly and mentioned the other girl who had been visiting, something that brought us incredibly close to a fistfight. The moral of these stories is that not accommodating a roommate’s wishes can cause serious tension.

Differing schedules can turn a dorm room into a real powder keg. One person may have 8am classes every day while the other person does not have a class that starts before noon. “8am” goes to bed at 10pm, while “noon” goes to bed at 3am. “8am” is back from class and drinking coffee while watching Fox News, waking up “noon” early, but “noon” plays HALO until he goes to bed, keeping “8am” awake all night. This causes sleep deprivation for both parties, which leads to poor grades for both people. The fact that they are both being kept up and their grades both tanking will inevitably lead to conflict.

Some students have problems with sharing. This can of course mean sharing too little or expecting the other person to share too much. Sharing too little can involve hogging the TV by watching endless shows that a roommate does not like or inviting people over for hours of Call of Duty when the other person has been wanting to watch a special on TV. Sharing too much can be even worse. Going back to my dreaded freshman roommate, one day I came back from class for a shave. (I was in a military school, so shaving was often done several times a day.) I pulled out my Mach 3 razor that I absolutely loved. Take into consideration that the blades for these razors are about $7-8 for a three pack. I looked at this razor and found shaving gel left on the blades. I use shaving cream (call me old fashioned), so I knew that my roommate had used it. I was not only angry that he had used my very expensive razor to shave even after I gave him a pack of Bic razors, but was outraged at the hygiene issues that it caused.

Cleanliness is also an issue for many people living with a roommate. Many people have issues keeping their rooms tidy, washing their dishes, or even showering. No one wants to deal with someone who leaves things strewn all over a small dorm room or apartment, and they despise living with smells even worse. Sometimes the problems are addressed by the concerned roommate and completely ignored, leading to even further problems.

These are the main issues that present problems for most college roommates. If you have lived with a roommate then you can relate some, if not all, of this list. If you are about to live with someone while you go to school then keep these things in mind in order to keep problems to an absolute minimum.