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Archive for Monday, July 9, 2012

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Double Take: With roommate, set rules for successful dorm living

July 9, 2012

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Dear Dr. Wes and Miranda: You ran a column last year about bad roommates. I’m going to be in the dorms this fall and am getting my roommate on potluck, and after reading that my parents (and me) were scared to death. They say that the dorm must be really different now than when they went to school. They’re even thinking about having me bail on the dorm and get an apartment. What tips do you have for us? 

On the air

Join Dr. Wes on KGGN 890 AM in Kansas City at 7 a.m. Wednesday to discuss mentoring teens for ethics, empathy and excellence in behavior.

Miranda: I understand why you and your parents are nervous about the dorms; I am too. I went potluck as well and don’t know anything about my roommate. But horror stories like that are rare. While you may struggle at times with your new roomie, this doesn’t mean you should shy away from dorm living altogether. It is an experience; whether good or bad, it will teach you a lot about yourself.

The key to roommate-ing is to be open and honest from the get-go. You two may not have a single thing in common, but if you respect each other’s space, possessions and expectations, then you’ll at least survive. Being up front about what issues or concerns creates fewer problems down the road (i.e. “You never told me I couldn’t borrow those shoes!”).

Most schools require you to create a roommate agreement at the start of the year on what you will and won’t allow each other to do. This should include overnight visitors, drug and alcohol use, and cleanliness.

The phrase “Don’t make promises when you’re happy” comes to mind here. You two may be clicking in August, but in January, when she stumbles home intoxicated every weekend, you need proof that she violated the agreement, or the residence hall staff won’t act. Think of worst-case scenarios and deal with them ahead of time so they don’t make your freshman year at college unbearable.

Remember, this is her space, too, and you will only be treated with respect if you give it to her as well. If you two have polar opposite personalities, then this will involve some compromise.

However, when you ask most people about their early college experience, they always talk about how much fun living on campus was.

Be prepared for the worst, but remember, you might get a lifelong friend out of it too.

Dr. Wes: Thankfully, that was the worst dorm horror story I’ve ever heard — one of those letters that required a lot of editing to make it publishable.

I felt for her, stuck in a tiny room at a distant college with a freshman who seemed plucked from the pages of The Big Book of Bad Roommate Clichés.

While dorm life has changed a lot over the years, all in all it’s still the place to be in your first year of college.

I agree with Miranda and would actually put a bit finer point on things, based on 12 years working in a big university town.

Here’s my short list:

• Do not eat your roommate’s special yogurt (chips and salsa, EasyMac, etc.). She’s been sitting in class thinking about it all day, just how delicious it’s going to be when she pulls it from the dorm fridge at 3:47 p.m. and shovels it into her mouth. Then she comes home and you have a yogurt mustache. This could cause a riot.

• Do not drive your roommate’s car and fail to put gas in it or ride her bike and leave the tire flat.

• Do not stalk her phone or email when she’s in the bathroom.

• Do not let your stinky boyfriend move into your dorm room or hang his sink-washed underwear in the shower. Gross.

• Don’t borrow or lend money.

• Don’t post nasty Facebook messages, pictures or tweets about her.

• Don’t sleep with her boyfriend or anyone she’s dated previously.

If you didn’t watch HBO’s new series “Girls” this spring, now is the time to do so. While it’s definitely for mature teens and young adults, it’s a funny, deeply poignant and painfully awkward reminder of how young women can struggle to get along. In fact, in the second to the last episode, the best friend roommates have it out about several of the issues cited above. It’s heart-wrenching to watch.

For those going off to the dorms this fall, we salute you. Keep an eye on Miranda up in the dorms. 2012-13 Double Take columnist Katie Guyot and I will be here when you need us.

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