Today I want to talk about roommates, living with others, and coexistence.
Many of you when you come to Boston, or in fact go anywhere in the world, will probably have to share a room, flat, or living space: everyone knows about exchange students’ limited budgets. And depending on your own history, you may or may not have shared your living space with others before and may or may not be used to doing so.
In my case, I had, as a little girl, shared a room with my sister until we moved to a bigger house. I shared board with hordes of girls during summer camps and shared a room with a Japanese exchange student in a previous exchange that I did in China during my third year of college. I was pretty confident of my abilities to deal with others.
The months previous to my arrival in Boston, BU Housing sent me an e-mail indicating with whom I was going to share my room for the whole year, and to my surprise it indicated that I would be sharing my room with two other students. Immediately I went into a state of nervousness at the idea of three people sharing the same space for such a long period of time; the uncertainty about how their characters would be, and if they would be compatible with my own. These are issues that every single person in that same situation will have. Even though humans are social individuals, when it comes to personal space we become hesitant.
Due to my nerves, I took the initiative and decided to send e-mails to my future roommates to set out the playing field, and get a little knowledge about those two mysterious girls that were meant to be my companions.
This turned out to be the best decision I could have made. We started talking and sharing our own stories, so that on the day we met we were no longer strangers, but had already settled the basis for our friendship.
The first day the three of us were settled in the dorm room, we sat down together to discuss and put together the guidelines for coexistence in the room. This is something I highly recommend. Settling from the beginning what is expected of each of the inhabitants avoids future conflict. We made a list of basic rules to be followed - from when to clean the room, to noise levels, laundry schedules, decoration of the room, bed times, lights, TV use, sleepovers, and guest policies. These rules are not rigid ones, but they were useful in setting the base of our relationship. These rules also don’t ensure coexistence, but they show the willingness to collaborate and create the best possible environment.
One thing that I believe is key is the willingness to create a friendship. It really doesn’t matter who your roommates are: if you approach them with an open mind, a smile, and a good attitude, you can make friends with anyone. My roommates happen to be very different individuals: one of them is a Chinese exchange student and the other is an American transfer student, but we have managed somehow to create a good friendship that enables us to coexist and make us want to spend time together.
We decided from the beginning that it was essential for us to do things together to ensure that our bond would grow. We established that at least one day a week we would do a roomie movie night, pizza night, bowling night, or spa night, and tried to take trips together, have meals together at the dining hall every week, go shopping, and decorate the room to make it look like home.
All this doesn’t mean that our coexistence is completely smooth and absent of any type of conflict. That is not so, for our personalities do clash at times, our lifestyles do not match, and some days we are just not in a mood to share anything with anyone. But we do our best, and it is our willingness to have a good environment in the room that does the trick.
I wish you the best of luck with your future room, dorm, or flat housemates and encourage you to make good friendships out of this experience.
Regards from me and my roommates, Kristen and Xi