Heading off to college is often one of the most exciting journeys in a person's life. Living on campus is a great way to make friends, become involved in a new community, and gain independence. Dorm life can also be stressful, since living with a friend or stranger is a new experience for most students. The following information offers tips on roommate etiquette and helpful strategies to address conflict in University housing. The office of University Housing and Residence Life (UHRL) believes that a positive relationship among roommates is an essential component of the overall college experience.
It's not essential that roommates become best friends, but dorm life is easier when there is a positive and respectful environment. Open communication and the willingness to compromise are valuable aspects of a healthy roommate relationship. Regardless as to what the religious and cultural backgrounds are, each student enters the dorm with a unique set of personality traits, habits, and beliefs about what college life will be like.
What is your reason for choosing Yeshiva University?
- What are your Major, interests and hobbies?
- Are you a social butterfly or homebody?
- How do you resolve conflicts?
- What time of day/night do you study?
- Are you a night owl or a morning person?
- What hours do you usually sleep? Study? Relax? Socialize?
- Are you organized?
Guidelines for the Room
During the first week of the semester, a room meeting is recommended. This is an opportunity to sit down as a group and decide together what the rules, responsibilities, and shared expenses will be. Everyone should have equal input in these decisions, and compromise will be necessary. Since views and habits usually evolve over time, it's important to continue discussing these themes throughout the year.
- Setting up the furniture in the room (layout, kitchen area)
- Creating a cleaning schedule (Who? What? When?)
- Purchasing cleaning supplies and other items for the room (toilet paper, windex)
- Discussing sleeping and study habits (hours, lighting, noise)
- Respecting individual preferences for noise (music, Skype)
- Setting up parameters for visitors and overnight guests (use of bedding, length/timing of visit)
- Establishing what items will be shared (refrigerator/microwave, soap)
Tips and Tools to Navigate the Roommate Experience
Dealing with Conflict: Even under the best circumstances, conflict is bound to arise between roommates. This is especially true after the first few weeks of school, when the stress of midterms and the challenges of living away from home become clearer. Overcoming conflict can lead to more open, effective communication. Here are a few suggestions to help students work through everyday issues:
- Stick to the room contract. This should be a fair set of guidelines, designed with everyone's input.
- Talk about issues as they arise.
- Be direct and to the point.
- Avoid making assumptions.
- Go straight to the source.
- Know when to get help. Resident Advisors, Graduate Assistants, and other member of the UHRL team are always available to assist you.
Here are some guidelines to address difficult conversations.
- Schedule the discussion in advance, and take everyone's academic and social commitments into consideration.
- Meet privately. You are more likely to resolve an issue if each person involved is able to speak openly.
- Stick to the facts. Your roommates will be more receptive to what you have to say if you are able to calmly describe the issue at hand in neutral, factual terms. You may want to jot down important points in advance.
- Use "I" statements and take ownership of the problem. Realize that there are always two sides to every story.
- Be willing to compromise. Look for solutions that are in everyone's best interest.
- Take turns talking and be prepared to listen. Once you've opened the discussion, give your roommates adequate opportunities to respond. Don't interrupt them and don't get defensive. Try to really hear what they are saying instead of thinking about what you are going to say next. Ask questions if you don't understand, and remember that your roommates are more likely to try and see your point of view if you make an effort to see theirs.
When a Roommate Needs Help
Whether or not you and your roommates are best friends, the close living quarters in dormitories offer you a unique glimpse into each others' personal lives. For this reason, you may be among the first to notice if your roommates are experiencing serious difficulties. While it may be tempting to offer help or advice when roommates are in trouble, it is important to recognize that many situations require the assistance of a trained professional. If you have concerns about a roommate or friend, do not hesitate to contact University Housing and Residence Life or the Counseling Center.