1. Roommates are people.
Let’s start with something easy. A point so easy, it often slips past the consciousness of the unsuspecting bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fresh resident. Your roommate is not going to be a non-entity or a mould that fits to your convenience. There will be things that will astound and appall you. Your roommate is going to annoy you at times, regardless of how adorable and un-annoying they initially seem. You musical tastes will diverge. Your hygiene tastes may also diverge. The point I’m trying to make is that you should not expect sharing your living space to be a walk in the park.
People are messy, unpredictable, and inconvenient. Given the right combination of variables, they can also be fabulous additions to your life whom you are glad to accept wholeheartedly with their quirks and inconveniences. Oftentimes, taking the time to get to know them will reveal something mind-blowingly cool that you’ll be grateful to have in your life. A cooking hobby, for example. Indispensable. You hit the jackpot if this is your roommate. Immediately befriend.
2. Be very cautious with your expectations of privacy.
Residence halls (particularly mine) are known for being uncomfortably close quarters for upwards of a hundred residents. Walls are often thin and traffic is usually relentless. Your conversations behind your locked door should take these factors into account. Skyping home, phoning your friends, or having your significant other visit for some quality time, remember to try to keep it down. Be considerate of those around you – they might be listening in on your conversations but often, it’s not like they have a choice. Consider also that residence hall culture is likely to have knocks on your door for some reason or other all the time, and when you get settled in enough, it’s not uncommon for friends who live close by to follow their knock with poking their head through your door to check if you’re there. If you know you are the type that won’t be comfortable with such, chances are, you’ll quickly learn to subdue your “inside voice” and keep your door locked.
3. Learn to share.
Groan. Sharing. The pre-school skill none of us ever quite master but all of us are called to practise at some point or another in our adult lives.
Residence life regards sharing with a certain reverence that is hard to describe to those unfamiliar with the phenomenon. Class notes, academic resources, Netflix accounts, video games, food, culture, clothes, food, music, shoes, rides, jewellery, food and did I mention food? I’ve been woken up with a knock at my door and a curt “come for your breakfast” at eight in the morning with no request or expectation of breakfast before.
Residence life puts students in a unique opportunity where a level of cultural exhibition and exchange is possible, where the bonds of sisterhood and brotherhood knit communities together over clothes and music and games and stories. If by the end of the year, your floor mates can barely remember whose kitchen wares originally belonged to whom and whose language has rubbed off the most, you’re doing residence life very, very right.
4. Act like a child and you’ll be treated as a child.
Most younglings on their first entry into residence life are getting their first taste of adulthood. It’s understandable. We’ll all be a bit excited, a bit indulgent, we may stumble and trip over our new-found independence but the shared living experience of residence life demands a certain level of maturity in conducting your affairs.
You’ll learn very quickly that the simple things your mom (ideally) would have taught you: to say good morning, wash your dishes when you’re done with them, make your bed, comb your hair, will go a long way in factoring into how persons view you and your maturity level as an individual. When you fail to do some of these simple things like keeping yourself tidy or washing up, others around you may perceive you as childish and act accordingly towards you.
5. If you are going to absolutely need WiFi, you should probably make other arrangements.
Especially on my residence hall. Definitely have a backup plan. Campus WiFi isn’t exactly known for its reliability in the first place and some rooms (mine) in some residence halls (mine) may not even get a strong enough signal during the day for functional Internet usage.
Scout your university, which should (ideally) have numerous computer labs – try your faculty or department computer labs, the Student Activity Centre, some residence halls even have separate computer labs for this reason and find a space you’re comfortable working in. It’s also a good idea to find a space off-campus but still closeby to be used as a plan ‘C’ for when campus WiFi is defunct.