If you are planning to study abroad, your success can be greatly affected by your choice of college roommate.
This person can become a friend, study partner, and away-from-home support system. They can also become a distraction, a nuisance, or a daily source of stress.
Below, WES Ambassador Nana Konadu Owusu discusses what to ask when you are interviewing a potential roommate—and the top factors to consider before you make a commitment.
Gaining admission to a college or university in another country is beyond exciting.
As an incoming student, there is a lot to look forward to—but your journey will also involve a number of tough decisions. Those include where to live (on-campus or off-campus) and who to live with (a friend or stranger).
Finding your ideal roommate can make your academic adventure less stressful. You might even end up with a lifelong friend. In light of this, it is paramount that adequate time and effort is invested in the roommate search.
When to Begin the Roommate Search
It is never too early to begin your roommate search. As soon as you are accepted to the institution of your choice, you should make this search a priority. Whether you opt for on-campus or off-campus living, finding a roommate (or being matched with one) as early as possible will allow you to proceed with planning in other areas (like managing your finances for the semester and figuring out any additional purchases you will need for your living space). With your “home life” taken care of, you can focus on schoolwork, food plans, transportation, and other factors involved with studying abroad.
Not only do you have the opportunity to weigh your options and choose more carefully when you plan ahead, but it also gives you and your chosen roommate time to get to know each other before moving in. You can discuss color schemes and bedtime rituals, favorite foods and course schedules.
When it comes to starting your college roommate search, the well-known adage “the earlier, the better” cannot be overemphasized!
How to Find a College Roommate
Most colleges in the United States and Canada provide the option of on-campus living for undergraduate students and will at least help you locate a suitable place to live if you are an international student at the graduate level. Never hesitate to rely on your school’s resources for help—including advice and websites they might provide to connect you with a trustworthy roommate.
Many institutions offer to connect you with other students seeking on-campus roommates by using a roommate questionnaire. These require you to answer a couple of questions (similar to the ones listed below). Residence Hall advisers then make sure to carefully review your answers to find a good match for you. As such, it is important that all questions are answered truthfully.
Additionally, social media sites are often heavily utilized by students for roommate searches, especially those who opt for off-campus living. However, extra caution must always be taken with the use of these sites, since they are widely targeted for scams, and safety is not guaranteed. Ask your school which sites they recommend and what common scams to avoid.
What to Ask a Potential Roommate
If you plan to share a room or apartment with someone for an entire semester or academic year, it is imperative that you find the right match. You can do this by asking the right questions.
Although this list is not exhaustive, below are a couple of questions you should first ask yourself and a potential roommate to gauge the level of compatibility:
- What qualities do you prefer in a roommate?
- Do you have any “pet peeves” (behaviors that bother you, even if they are not explicitly bad)?
- Are you a “party animal” (an extrovert who is very socially active) or “couch potato” (an introvert who prefers to stay at home)?
- What are a few words you would use to describe yourself? (Organized, clean, busy, quiet…?)
- What are your sleeping habits?
These basics will help you start forming a picture of what to expect from living with someone.
After you complete an interview, take a few days to see how you feel about their answers before making the final commitment to room with the person of your choice. Sometimes people seem wonderful and exciting when you first speak with them, but you wind up feeling apprehensive or learning that you have more follow-up questions later on. It does not hurt to take a little time and circle back with someone instead of rushing into a long-term commitment like this, even if it feels right after one introduction.
More importantly, you need to know yourself before you can decide what you would like in a roommate.
Think about your own likes and dislikes. What are the things you absolutely cannot live with, and what are the things you absolutely need in order to live peacefully? You need to be able to express these wishes to college roommate candidates.
Additionally, make sure that you are comfortable with saying “no.” It is possible that you really like someone and do not want to hurt their feelings, but they are just not the right fit for you. That is OK. But do not commit to them just because you feel bad or lack the courage to crush their hope. If you do not feel strong enough to say “no,” consider asking another friend or relative to help you. You can also simply tell them that you have found someone else who is a better fit—which, eventually, you will.
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How to Choose the Right Roommate
The simple fact of college life is that it is possible to find yourself living with complete strangers or someone you are just getting to know. You will learn a lot about yourself, and what you want out of a living partner, from this experience.
Additionally, you might be tempted to room with someone you know from home, or a friend-of-a-friend. Although deciding to room with a familiar person might seem smart, it is important to realize that being friends or acquaintances with someone does not guarantee that they will be the best roommate for you. You should still ask them basic questions about themselves and their lifestyle preferences before making your decision. At least with a stranger, if it does not work out, you will not be compromising one of your existing friendships in a new location.
As a last piece of advice, remember that the interview is not all about your own needs. As much as you are choosing someone and holding them to certain standards, remember that they are choosing you as well. Whatever it is you expect of them, they also expect of you. You should prepare to answer any questions you raise and make a good first impression.
Overall, the key to finding a roommate with whom you can live happily ever after … or at least until the semester ends … is to practice honesty and good communication. Good luck!
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).