Opinion: The success of your roommate experience is in your control

What ASU students can do to create positive roommate relationships

ASU’s housing policy, which heavily encourages first-year freshmen to live on campus for a year, leaves some students facing roommate issues for the first time. All of the thousands of ASU students living on campus benefit from a good roommate relationship.

Students who have had a successful on-campus living experience indicate that there are several ways to help ensure a positive roommate relationship. 

Making the most out of your roommate experience starts even before move-in. During roommate selection process, choosing to live with random people reduces the risk of losing a pre-existing friendship and facilitates making new friends.

Maya Shrikant, a freshman in biological sciences and a Barrett Recruitment Office intern, said that she often advises incoming students to choose random roommates.

“I had a best friend from high school that I almost roomed with because of convenience,” Shrikant said. “But by putting ourselves out there, she met a best friend who is now my best friend. We’ve expanded our circles so much more.”

After picking a roommate, the roommate agreement is an early opportunity to set your roommate relationship up for success. Not having a detailed agreement doesn’t doom everyone to failure, but being explicit about expectations can help ensure that they are not violated in the future. Shrikant says that she and her roommates laid everything out on the first night.

“We were very detailed (in our roommate agreement),” Shrikant said. “We talked about cleaning, … whose stuff was whose, separation of personal space. We even went to, ‘OK so if you have a guy over, how far are you going to go on the couch before you need to be in your personal space.'"

Vishvak Rangarajan, a sophomore in biomedical engineering, agreed that clear boundaries are important.

“If there’s some stuff in the kitchen you don’t want others to eat or you have preferences for when to go to sleep, make sure you talk to them before going into it,” Rangarajan said.

While it may seem tedious, understanding exactly what you can and can’t do  helps avoid conflicts in the future. 

However, even in the most successful relationships, it is more than possible for issues to arise at some point. A contract itself is largely a formality, as the responsibility of enforcement should fall on all of the residents of a particular dorm.

It's never too late to learn conflict resolution. Whether you've been living with your roommate for six weeks or six months, creating a dialogue with your roommate to address issues is much more effective to improving your living situation than almost any other practice. 

“(Our roommate agreement was violated) a few weeks ago,” Shrikant said. “We all confronted each other, sat down and had a three hour pow-wow.”

If you feel that you are being treated unfairly, seeking resolution is your right, but being accusatory may result in escalating the conflict. Instead, try having a candid discussion and listen to what your roommates have to say.

Obviously, avoiding conflict doesn't constitute a fulfilling relationship on its own. Cultivating an actual friendship with the strangers you move in with may require some effort, but it can be immensely rewarding.

Unlike friendships that are organically formed over a common interest, you may have to go outside your typical hobbies to bond with your roommates. Shrikant said that her roommates' tactic for this has been allowing each roommate to occasionally make plans for the whole group based on their own interests.

"(Every month), we choose one thing each that we are interested in," Shrikant said. "Pushing the other person to do things you are interested in can help you find common ground."

Committing to dorm with one or more people you’ve never met can be daunting. However, if you are able to avoid the conflicts associated with sharing a living space, it can help create close bonds with fellow ASU students, and may be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your college career. 

 Reach the columnist at rdougla3@asu.edu or follow @rossdougla on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the  author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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