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Roommate Agreements and Getting Real [Ask the Sherpa]


Sherpa, the Sherpa

Dear Sherpa,

I’m a freshmen living in West Hall. This week, we’re making roommate agreements and I’m feeling a little uncomfortable. I’m worried that I might offend people if I say what I really want, because then they’ll know that what they’re doing bothers me. I’m also scared that I’ll be judged for asking for some things (quiet hours starting at 11pm, for instance.) Are roommate agreements even that important? I feel way too stressed for this. What should I do?


Anxious to Agree

Dear Anxious to Agree,

Thanks for writing, especially about such an important subject. First off, take advantage of the opportunity to put everything on the table, and set your room on the path to success. You shouldn’t ignore your roommate agreement or move too quickly through it. A lot of good friendships have been lost over living together, and that’s a terrible thing. Friendships are the most valuable ships. Because they’re made of gold.

Making a roommate agreement for your swanky West Hall apartment-palace is a cakewalk compared to what I had to go through last summer, but perhaps I can offer some helpful advice from the trenches.

While starring on Real World: Tegucigalpa, I learned a lot of life lessons: never trust a man with fourteen fingers, don’t drink dirty water, and always, always take your earrings off before fighting any wildlife.

But the most important lesson I learned was how to live with different personalities. For example, Stefanie wanted to have friends over at all hours of the day and night. We discussed sleep schedules and landed on a couple of times when I would prefer the house to be quieter. Similarly, when Brock tried to turn the house into a tropical retreat for former convicts, all the roommates had to sit down and reach a compromise. At first, I didn’t want any convicts, but eventually, I realized I was being unreasonable. Once Brock and I could put aside our differences and worked together constructively, we agreed to open our home only to petty thieves and those who were really, really convinced of their innocence.

Real World taught me to speak up for what was important to me, but also to listen to my roommates and try to understand their perspective. Like my arch-nemesis Terrell said before he threw all of my clothes into the pool because I punched his pet turtle, “open and honest communication is the key to a strong relationship.”

Be brave, be bold and be honest. Remember that you don’t have to stop being polite to start getting real. In the end, it’s better to have one slightly awkward roommate discussion than a year of being miserable, right? And remember, it could be worse. You could be living with sleep-murdering Sherrie, or, worse, bad-breath Brock.