What I Wish I Knew: Living on Campus

by Rebekah Bruckner '18

“You will have to learn how to share a room,” I remember countless people telling me about living on campus. I blew it off, assuming that because I had shared a room before (when I was 11), I could share a room again. I had no clue how difficult it would be to live with a stranger. I’m still friends with my freshman year roommate, but our time living together was filled with unexpected challenges. Neither of us knew how to address conflict, so we avoided it; we failed to communicate time after time. This created a stressful living situation for both of us.

It wasn’t until my second year of college that I began to understand what a difference communication makes. When I began to express my thoughts and feelings to my roommates, we gained a greater understanding of what we could each do to make our living space more welcoming and comforting. So, here are four tips to help you prepare to live on campus:

1. Communication is key.

It can be terrifying to bring up a problem with your new roommate for the first time, but it is so important. It is rare that a problem will fix itself. If you let it fester, you will only become more frustrated. Moving to college is stressful enough—aim for open communication with your roommate to lessen the burden of living in a new environment.

2. Get to know your new roommate.

Your roommate doesn’t need to be your best friend, but it is important that you build a relationship with each other. This will help you create a healthy space to come home to. If you know each other’s preferred methods of communication, problem-solving will come more easily. Plus, you may become lifelong friends! After all, college is a great place to meet new people. You have the opportunity to start fresh, so take advantage of the moments you get to spend with new people.

3. Meet new people outside of your hall.

Oftentimes, deep friendships are formed with the people who live in your hall or on your floor. The women who lived next door my freshman year became two of my closest friends. But most of the people I spend time with live in other areas on campus. It can be difficult to step outside of your comfort zone and meet new people, but joining a club or organization is one of the best ways to do this. I ran on the track team my freshman year and met many of my friends there. My sophomore year, I joined Enactus, a nonprofit entrepreneurship group on campus, and I ran a bike shop. These experiences gave me the chance to meet people from different years and different majors.

4. Be intentional about spending time alone.

Finding a space to just “be” is one of the hardest things to do in college. This is likely the first time that you’ve lived in the same place as your friends, so it is tempting to spend every waking moment with them. That is exactly what I did. I filled my moments with laughter and friendship, but I quickly ran dry. I knew that I needed time alone, but I often avoided it. I tried convincing myself that I could be an extrovert, and that I could survive and thrive. I was very wrong. Everyone needs alone time, so make time to be by yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask your roommates or friends for space. It’s easy to be afraid of missing out, but there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved. Taking a few moments for your own health is key to success in college. If you can’t get peace and quiet in your own room, find a place on or off campus where you can think. Try journaling, listening to music, reading something for fun, or painting. Take a deep breath. It is also important to find a place outside of your room to study, somewhere that your friends can’t interrupt you. Try the library or a hidden table outside. There are plenty of places to explore!

Remember: It’s okay if your roommate situation doesn’t work out; not everyone creates a lasting bond with their first roommate. The transition to living on campus may not be easy, but take advantage of the new experience and you will learn so much!