By: Yashoda Valliere
Living with roommates has become a staple experience at McMaster - there are 3700 spots in residence, the vast majority of which are in double rooms - and many off-campus students share housing in order to reduce costs. Whether in res or off campus, you’ll likely be sharing your space with at least one fellow student during your years at Mac. Living with roommates can be one of the most gratifying experiences of university – although sometimes they make you want to tear your hair out. However, by learning to compromise and solve problems with a complete stranger, you’re likely to grow as a person and you may end up gaining a lifelong friend. Here are a few tips for surviving (and enjoying) the experience:
Be clear about your expectations from the beginning – things you’re looking forward to this year, things you’re nervous about, things that really irk you, and any other info that can help you understand each other better. You might find that you have more in common than you thought (you both want to join the McMaster Quidditch Team – let’s say), but it’s also good to know your roomie’s pet peeves in advance so you don’t constantly annoy them without realizing.
Respect your roommate’s space. Believe it or not, it is actually okay to not be BFFs – and even if you are, everyone needs alone time, at least on occasion. As long as you treat each other with mutual respect and agree on basic responsibilities such as cleaning and quiet times, feel free to do your own thing.
Don’t take, touch, use or borrow anything without asking. This may seem ridiculously obvious, but you would be surprised how many people think “she won’t mind if I use her $60 shampoo” or “he won’t miss just one yogurt cup from his 8-pack”. Trust me. They will.
Take turns and compromise. When the two of you want to use your space for different things such as sleep vs. having friends over, consider which activities really require the use of the room – you can study, party, talk on the phone and eat outside your bedroom, whereas sleep and sex take precedence! If your roomie’s got a brutal cold and really needs to rest, consider moving your One Direction dance party to the common room.
When it comes to having friends over to prep for midterms in the upcoming weeks, a few alternative meeting places include your residence common room, Bridges Café, and the libraries. You can book private study rooms at the library up to two weeks in advance, or even book a meeting room in MUSC online. Lesser known haunts include empty lecture halls and tutorial rooms in the Arts Quad basement (CNH, TSH and KTH) and the McMaster Children’s Hospital. Of course, you don’t have to use these rooms to study for exams – it could be to rehearse presentations, work on group projects, meet with clubs, or whenever you just need some quiet space.
Be flexible… after all, you came to university to step outside of your comfort zone and open your mind to new ideas! Living with another person means give and take, and 50% of the time the person giving has got to be you.
But at the same time, don’t be afraid to stand up on important issues. Don’t compromise on the fundamentals like your quality of sleep – these can seriously affect your physical and mental health as well as your grades! If you’re feeling worn out or depressed during the year, keep in mind the multitude of resources available to McMaster students – the fees are already covered by your health insurance plan or the MSU. Drop into the Student Health Education Centre (SHEC) for peer counseling with a fellow student, or make an appointment with a health professional at the Student Wellness Centre.
Use the supports in place. Take the roommate contract seriously – it could help you out later in the year if your roommate isn’t following through with what you had agreed upon. On a similar note, make good use of your C.A. (it’s what they’re being paid for)! These live-in staff members just down the hall are trained to efficiently resolve roommate conflicts every year. If for any reason your C.A. is unhelpful or unable to resolve your problem, don’t be afraid to reach out to other C.A.’s in your building, or even the Residence Manager.
If all else fails, just follow the Golden Rule. Things aren’t going to be perfect, but with an open mind, clear communication and perhaps a pair of earplugs, you’ll be ready for any adventure.