Before arriving at St. Olaf: you might consider trying to get into contact with your future roommate before the semester starts (by e-mail, Facebook, or other means). It can help take some pressure off and help you both begin getting to know each other. Other than discussing details about each other’s personalities and lives, you could also talk about small things like what you would be willing to co-buy or share in your living space (like a mini-fridge or a rug).
At St. Olaf: it might be uncomfortable on Move-In Day talking about specifics of room arrangements and preferences, but the feeling is normal and often quickly overcome. The most important thing is to never assume that your roommate will understand what you prefer or where you stand just through your actions: take the time to sit down together, listen to each other, and communicate preferences and expectations. You both will likely encounter some cultural and habitual differences that may seem unsettling, but try to approach them with an open mind. Take this new living experience as an opportunity for personal growth and let it encourage you to get to know your roommate on a deeper level.
Finally, always communicate with care and respect. Even if you might struggle to understand each other, never forgo these two key aspects. In other words, respect the other person no matter what and treat him or her the way you would want to be treated. If you do, small disagreements will likely be easily resolved and it will do wonders for any issues that may arise.
During orientation, you will have the chance to sit down with your roommate to discuss and try to agree upon a set of expectations to be respected. Have a civil, clear conversation about what to expect from each other. You will be provided a ‘roommate agreement,’ which you are encouraged to read over together and sign. Although it may seem unnecessary to discuss all the elements of this agreement, I think there is no hurt in using it as a starter tool to communicate the things that will shape the dynamics of your daily living space.
Here are some examples of the questions:
- What is your preferred bedtime?
- Is it ok to have music on in the room or are headphones preferred?
- Can your roommate work in the room with the lights on, while you are sleeping?
- On a scale of “I don’t mind” to “I seriously mind” how neat do you prefer your room to be on a daily basis?
- Do you mind guests in your room?
- At what time would you prefer for guests to leave on school nights/on weekends?
- What in the room is considered to be for communal/shared use?
- If there is food in the room, is it considered to be for the both of you?
- What types of food/aerosols/fragrances/creams/medications are allowed in the room (in the case of allergies, etc.)?
It is very common that although roommates might get along, they won’t necessarily become close friends. Don’t be alarmed if you and your roommate are not as close as you might become with other students. Nevertheless, try to go out of your way to be kind to each other. Some examples of this might be: ask them how their day went when you are both back in the room, offer to grab a meal together during the week or buy them a Friday flower (a St. Olaf tradition you will learn about) if they are feeling down.
ResLife does a very good job of pairing roommates, but you may still run into some difficulties at some point that could use some mediation. If this is the case, there are specific routes you may take to try and overcome these difficulties. The recommended order in which you should try and resolve these issues is by:
- Resolving it between the two of you (communication with care, respect, and honesty)
- Talking to your JCs and/or AC
- Talking to your International Student Counselor or Megan
- Talking to the Assistant Director of Residence Life in Tomson Hall
Compromise is always necessary, the extent to which you will have to will depend on you and your roommate. Be willing to accommodate the quirks and habits of the other person—some will be fun, some will be interesting, some will be bearable, and others will just seem impossible to deal with at times. It’s normal: it will be a give and take. Most importantly, don’t expect them to make compromises when you are not yourself willing to give up anything or come to an agreement. Meet each other halfway whenever possible!