You’re in college now! You have left Mom and Dad and you live on your own for the first time. It’s great! Except…you have a roommate now. And you have to share your bathroom with 30 other people. It’s noisy and crowded and a little bit intimidating. It can be especially hard for international students coming to the US for the first time because cultural expectations can be very different! But with a little organization, you can survive living in a college dorm and have a great time doing it.
1. Have your own shower stuff! Sharing the shower has some inconvenient drawbacks, but you can get clean and stay clean. First off, get a shower caddy or bag to carry all your things back and forth. Make sure it is big enough to hold your soap or shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, a washcloth or shower pouf, a razor and shaving cream, and anything else you need. You can find these at Walmart, Target, or any pharmacy like Walgreens or CVS.
The other thing you want is a really good pair of hard plastic shower shoes. You wear these in the shower to avoid getting athlete’s foot or any other fun thing that hangs out in showers used by a lot of people. Avoid foam flip-flops, which absorb water and don’t protect you as well as plastic.
2. Get a Sharpie and label everything! Write your name and room number on your towel and washcloth. Write it on your shower bag and shower shoes and on your notebooks and school supplies. Most of all, be sure to label any of your snacks that you do not want to share. It is important so that if you lose something, there is information for someone to return it to you. A Sharpie marker will not wash off most things, and they are available in fine-tips if you want to write small.
3. Speaking of food, here are some tips for food etiquette in a shared room. Label your food, and pay attention to your roommate’s labels. DO NOT eat something that does not belong to you! Even if your roommate did not label something, unless you have both agreed that it is for both of you, do not eat it. When eating or preparing food, be sure to clean up after yourself. The only thing worse than someone else eating your lunch is finding that someone’s soup exploded in the microwave and they didn’t clean it up. Be sure to wash any dirty dishes right away so they do not start to smell or worse: attract insects or mice. Be a clean roomy
! Click on the link for some really good info on how to keep your living spaces clean.
4. And speaking of being clean…keep your things tidy. This makes it easier to find what you need and to study, but also keeps your roommate from wanting to scream at you. Make your bed, put away clean clothes and keep dirty clothes in a basket or laundry bag. Wash your sheets regularly, too, as this prevents your room from smelling musty, and helps you sleep well every night!
5. If you have an American roommate, you are in luck! You will learn English much faster than if you had a roommate from your own country. But this also means culture clash and international students are not always prepared for living with an American. American students expect that their personal space will be respected and that the rules above will be respected as well. You will want to be sure to keep your things on your side of the room and to avoid sitting on your roommate’s bed or using their desk without asking first. It’s hard to live with someone you don’t know, and respecting their space is important. And make sure they treat you with the same respect! It’s okay to ask them not to leave their Starbucks cups on your desk, or to keep their feet off your bed.
6. What if you and your roommate just don’t get along? If you fight or argue all the time? This is where your Residential Advisor (RA) comes in. Make a point of introducing yourself to your RA as soon as you can after moving into the dorm. He or she will help you out if you have any issues with the dorm, with your roommate, or with any other dorm resident. This person is “in charge” of a specific set of rooms or a floor in the dorm, and will help you understand the rules, get along with a roommate, and be a good resident. You want the RA to know you and like you!
Studies show that students who live on campus get better grades and enjoy college more than those who do not. International students benefit most from being in close contact with English speakers, so they learn the language and culture quickly, and make friends quickly, too. You might even meet the love of your life in a college dorm! If you are a courteous roommate and take care of yourself and your things, you will enjoy your life in the dorms. For more information, click on one of the links below.
6 Survival Tips for Life in a Dorm
5 Tips for Staying Healthy While Living in a Dorm
10 Tips for Living with a College Roommate