Living with Roommates

Living with roommates is exciting, perhaps daunting, and very eye-opening. I never had a roommate when I lived in a first-year residence at McGill, so I wanted to give it a try my second year at university. Having listened to my peers throughout the year, I thought I knew enough about rooming with someone: dividing the chores, respecting each other’s space, all that jazz. I began to search for an apartment with the friends that I made in residence around March and finally found a suitable place that was within each of our budgets. However, there was so much more to learn about living with other people or in my case, three other people!

  1. Discuss alarm clocks and quiet hours. During our time in residence, my roommates and I tended to wake up late and sleep even later. This year, one of my roommates decided to start going to the gym on a regular basis; her alarm clock was set for 6:00am every day. Unluckily for me, we share a wall and I can hear every single alarm. My schedule quickly changed to sleeping early, because I could always count on being woken at 6:00am, followed by another awakening at 7:30am when she returned from the gym, and another alarm around 9:00am when she left for school.
  2. Good walls, good windows. Many of the apartments in the McGill ghetto and around MontrĂ©al are quite old, with squeaky floors and thin walls. I had the worst luck of them all; my room was separated from my roommate’s (the one that wakes up at 6:00am) via a thin, plyboard sheet. While it is a “wall” for all intents and purposes, I can hear everything that she does and vice versa. In addition, try to ensure that everyone has a window in their room. It may not seem important, but body odour builds up quickly.
  3. Study habits are important. Do you tend to spend nights at Schulich library? Does your roommate have people over all the time? It’s important to respect each other’s schedules and to be aware that someone else might have an exam the day after you throw a party. We decided to stick our class schedules up on the fridge and we wrote down all of our exam dates.
  4. Don’t expect too much. If you don’t already know your roommate, don’t expect to become best friends immediately. You may find yourself developing a close friendship with your roommate, but you might not. The most important thing is that you’re living together for the next while, so knowing how to be a good roommate come first and foremost.
  5. Germs, germs, and more germs. Chances are, you or your roommate(s) will fall ill this year. It might have already happened, seeing as the “frosh flu” is an annual pandemic each September. Try to wash communal towels regularly and to keep antibacterial wipes or other products on hand. Divide weekly chores (like cleaning the bathroom or the kitchen) and don’t be afraid to call out your roommates for not fulfilling their duties!
  6. Bad smells make for bad relationships. Different smells bother different individuals, whether it’s the microwave, the fridge, or the bathroom. One of my roommates regularly heats up food in the microwave, make it smell really bad. We’ve now adopted a method of “airing” the microwave after each use so that it doesn’t reek of bacon!
  7. Sexiled. It can be awkward for you or your roommate(s) when one of you has someone over. You might be vocal, the walls might be thin, or there may be other concerns. Talk about these things and respect each other’s personal space; I always warn my roommates when I have my partner over, so they know not to walk into my room.
  8. Be proactive! Address any issues or concerns early on. Don’t let problems simmer, let your roommate(s) know if you ever feel disturbed or uncomfortable. Of course, it’s a good idea to let small things slide because let’s face it, your roommates are also tolerating some of your bad habits. But most people are willing to alter a few things here and there in order to make communal living more successful; if you address these problems, your roommate(s) will also feel more comfortable addressing theirs!
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