It doesn’t matter if you’re used to living with a bunch of people; you’re not going to be prepared.
I’m an only child, but I grew up spending Christmas at my family chalet every year with six other people, not including my parents. And when I went to Greece last year, I spent a week rooming with three other girls. I thought that would make me more than prepared.
As you can probably guess, I wasn’t.
I live in a suite-style dorm and share living space with three other girls. This is both a good thing (I don’t have to share a bathroom with thirty people) and a bad thing (there’s four of us squished together). We all love each other, but we get on each other’s nerves a whole lot, too.
Putting strangers in such close proximity to each other is a recipe for conflict. No matter how much you get along—or don’t—you’re going to discover things about the other person(s) that irritate you and vice versa. It can be dirty dishes in the sink, water on the bathroom floor, or noise levels.
A key part of having a good relationship with your roommate(s) is communication. So if something’s really bothering you, talk to them about it. As long as you keep it friendly, they’ll probably be willing to compromise.
Expect the unexpected.
I’ve talked about this before in a guest post I did for Greenide, but I’ll expand on it a little more here. Half of your residence experience will be based on Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. There will be fire alarms bright and early on the first day of classes. Random people will probably wander into your room at some point or another. At least once, someone’s going to go screaming down the halls, off-their-face drunk. You might even get campus emergency services called for you because you’ve vomited from food poisoning four times in the last half-hour (not that I speak from experience).
Look, man: it’s going to be weird, ridiculous, and most likely crazy. But there can be good things, too, like when a girl on your floor goes around giving handmade Christmas candy packages to everyone, or when your RA bakes you cookies and pancakes. Sometimes, those random people wandering into your room will become good friends. And those fire alarms make for some pretty great stories, too.
You’re going to have to work around other people.
Like I said before, living with other people is going to take some work.
For one, everyone has their own morning and bedtime routines. Some people take five minutes in the bathroom, others fifteen minutes or more. Some people take morning showers, evening showers, or mid-day showers. In the mornings, it can become a race to snag the bathroom first. And this could conflict with your schedule or someone else’s. Either way, someone’s going to have to compromise.
If it seems too quiet, something’s probably wrong.
Rule of thumb: if things seem like they’re going too well, they probably are.
This isn’t me trying to be pessimistic. It’s just reality. If you finally find a quiet night, the screaming’s probably going to start soon. If you have the lounge to yourself on a Friday, wait for the drunk people to come in to make popcorn. And if you haven’t had a fire alarm in a couple months, just hope it won’t ring while you’re in the shower.
It’s going to have its up and downs.
Residence life is not going to be perfect. It’s not going to be the buddy-buddy, socialising-all-the-time ideal you see in movies. There are going to be people you like, and people you don’t. You’re going to have great days, and some very not-so-great days.
Mental health can be a big problem in residence. Being stressed over work and around so many people all the time can take its toll, especially as the semester goes on. At some point, you’re going to need a few days to yourself to recharge. Whether that means going home for a weekend or just going off-campus for the day, sometimes, you just need to take a break from residence life.
But at the end of the year, you’re going to miss it.
Residence life is crazy. It’s a wild whirlwind of classes, socializing, and homework. But it’s also one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and once it’s over, I’m sure as hell going to miss it.
What are your experiences with residence life?
To follow along with my experience at university, click here!