Roommates add stress to college life

Afsah Khan

Art by Hyelee Won
Art by Hyelee Won
Along with many college-bound students across the nation, senior Rachel Kiehne debates which school to attend next year, weighing the pros and cons of each school. However, the topic of residence halls is one she will face regardless of where she ends up.
For Kiehne, going off to college and living in a residence hall next fall leads to questions about roommates and the strong possibility that she will have to live with someone she has never met before.
“None of my close friends are going to … the school I’m going to, but I think if I had a choice, I’d like to stay with a friend just because I knew that we would get along, and we kind of have similar tastes,” Kiehne said. “But, I’m going to be [rooming] with a random person. ”
Kiehne worries she won’t be able to adapt to a picky roommate. She recognizes some people are very selective about their living conditions, and sometimes roommate expectations and needs collide.
“I’m kind of concerned that when I go to sleep, I always have to have a TV on, and if I’m roomed with somebody that’s like, ‘I have to sleep in complete silence and complete dark,’ then that might be an issue,” Kiehne said. “I know I’m also a heavy sleeper, so I don’t always wake up to my alarm, so that also might make the person mad at me.”
While Kiehne prepares to leave for college next year, 2008 RBHS alumna Shannon Kiehl has already been through situations in which she had to deal with roommates. After living in a dorm, Kiehl switched to living in an apartment with three other girls. Through the process, Kiehl saw the issues that came with dorm life.
“One of the problems with the dorms is if you get a random roommate, sharing can be an issue,” Kiehl said, along with “people that are getting into your personal stuff.”
Along with Kiehl, Kiehne accepts the potential conflicts that come with roommates. She knows it’s possible to end up with a roommate who is hard to deal with. Her sister, a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, faced a similar problem in a residence hall. The suite-style rooms, made for two people and connected to another room by a bathroom, caused an issue for her sister.
“My sister made really good friends with one of the girls from the other suite, and the girl from the other suite didn’t get along with her roommate at all so the girl moved into my sister’s room,” Kiehne said. “There were three people living in one room and one person living in the other. Apparently the room was pretty much a big mess because there were three beds in there that shouldn’t have been there.”
Problems among roommates can occur for students at any college. Frankie Minor, the Director of Residential Life at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said residence halls are a big jump from the life many of the students led before college.
“Having a roommate is a relatively new experience for most of our students,” Minor said. “We offer some tips … about things you can talk about, what makes for a good roommate relationship.”
The roommate selection process occurs online, with students choosing a certain space out of many choices. Minor looks at certain factors to pair students but often allows students to pick their own roommates.
“When a student chooses a room, the only criteria that they look at is if that person is a smoker or not,” Minor said. “We don’t allow smoking in the residence halls, but we do recognize that some students are smokers and that some students have a sensitivity to that. … So our process won’t allow a student who has indicated that they are a smoker to live with a student who has indicated that they would prefer not to live with a smoker.”
This arranging of roommates is done exclusively for residence halls, so problems can occur in apartments as well, where the lifestyle is more independent than in a residence hall. Kiehl saw a difference between living in an apartment versus on campus, especially with multiple roommates.
“[In] an apartment, usually one person kind of takes over … and another one kind of chips in,” Kiehl said. “I had issues with a roommate who didn’t pay for three or four months, and I had to ask her. Doing housework [is an issue] too, like pitching in to clean.”
The change in lifestyle was abrupt for Kiehl, she said, because of a lack of mental preparation on her part. This led her to have some issues with one of her roommates.
“I actually didn’t [prepare myself] because I roomed with a lot of my really close friends. The only problem I ever had [in the apartment] was with my random roommate,” Kiehl said. “She was the only person I ever had an issue with. But even if we did … have issues sometimes, we always got past them.”
Minor aims to avoid such conflicts that might happen between roommates during their stay in the residence halls. However, if two students have an argument over their living arrangement, Minor vies for peace.
“College students are young adults, and part of that is beginning to make some independent decisions on their own, so typically we will not require students to move apart,” Minor said. “If you and your roommate really aren’t getting along, we go through a series of processes where we talk about what’s the source of the issue.”
If the problem cannot be resolved through private conversation between the students, the next step is to talk to “peer advisors” who can often facilitate a difficult conversation.While preparing for any problems that may arise from living arrangements in college, Kiehne is still optimistic that she will be able to deal with whatever is thrown her way.
“I think I can get along with people pretty well,” Kiehne said. “I don’t think I will have problems being friends with someone unless it’s a picky living situation that they got mad at me [for].”
Kiehl believes independent living caters to the skill of cooperation. She says her own experience helped her learn how to deal with others in many circumstances.
“You definitely grow up … because you learn to take on more responsibility and really learn to live on your own,” Kiehl said. “Sometimes it can be kind of hard, but it’s really fun and really exciting because you’re finally growing up to be an adult.”
By Afsah Khan