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Getting along with your roommate can be challenging

Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 12:31 p.m. CDT; updated 12:37 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jared Culver and Greg Andi, both 19, took a roommate challenge this summer in the lounge of the College Avenue Residence Hall.

There were no prizes for the eight roommates in the contest; it was just a fun test of their compatibility.

Four rounds of questions ranged from naming the roommates’ favorite junk food to listing their annoying habits.

“You better not get this wrong!” Andi told Culver after one question.

“I got you man,” Culver replied.

The two act like old friends, but Culver and Andi have actually only been roommates for one semester.

Not all roommate relationships work out so well. Jamon Kimbrough, a Columbia native in his sophomore year majoring in social work, started with a positive attitude but said the situation eventually became disagreeable.

“You really don't know how it's going to be," Kimbrough said. "You hear stories, but I assumed the best, so I wasn't worried.”

In their second semester together, the relationship with his roommate broke down.

“I had early classes and his were late," Kimbrough said. "I would be asleep when he wanted to be loud. He wasn't considerate and kept me awake, which lead to the worst grades I have ever got.”

Kimbrough left his relationship with his roommate unresolved. By the time it was affecting his grades, it was too late to swap. He had to wait till the semester was over.

Roommates are a fact of life at MU, where all freshman are required to live on campus for at least one semester. Single rooms are available, but most people share.

Each room has two beds and desks with one chest-of-drawers. In half the residence halls, a bathroom is shared between two rooms. The entire space has very little privacy, so getting along with a roommate is important.

According to Dave Reilley, director of New Student Programs, there is more opportunity than ever to find a roommate.

In the past, freshman would submit their preferences and matches would be  generated by computer.

Freshmen are now able to view available rooms online, and beds can be reserved for up to 24 hours so they can save one for a friend. It works much the same way seats are chosen on airline Web sites.

More new students are also using social networks such as Facebook to find roommates with common interests and to get to know them ahead of time.

MU has its own site called You@Mizzou. Like Facebook, it allows you to create a profile and join interest groups or become fans.

Summer Welcome leaders Kassie Hyde and Alex Ruppenthal do warn students and parents about judging future roommates based solely on Facebook photos. Get to know them first, they said.

The majority of students have no trouble adjusting to having a roommate, said Bert Drury, a community advisor whose role is to create a comfortable environment on each floor of the residence hall, a “home away from home.”

Community advisers are responsible for enforcing MU policies and scheduling events to encourage socializing. Barbecues and friendly competitions can start conversations and let people build friendships in an informal setting.

A senior, Drury said his own experience with roommates in college has been positive.

“We got on very well," he said. "We were open about our expectations and understanding about space requirements."

The most common disputes are tied to personality differences and incompatible habits, he said. Some people leave their belongings lying around, while others like to be tidy. When these two personalities share a room, it can cause problems.

Some roommates can also be a distraction from your studies. “It's hard to stay focused if your roommate isn't,” Drury said.

MU has a strict no-alcohol policy within the residence halls, which can cause conflicts, he said. Thefts rarely happen between roommates, but homesickness and exam pressure might cause stress that leads to friction.

Respect, understanding and openness are key, according to Drury. Make sure the rules are clear and understood, he said.

“The best way is to just approach them," Drury said. "Don't be passive-aggressive. Just be open.”

That’s what went wrong for Kimbrough and his roommate.

“At first we could live together but we didn't communicate,” Kimbrough said. This led to the breakdown.

Often, roommates can work out a compromise, but if not, it is the community adviser's responsibility to resolve it. If conflicts are not addressed, they can escalate and cause resentment.

“Small things become big," Kimbrough said. "We could have worked it out if our problems had been dealt with earlier.”

Shuffling roommates or bringing in a new one late in the semester can be difficult because there is limited space and residence halls fill up. The process of swapping can take as long as a month.

Drury advises students to remember that having a roommate is part of the college experience.

"You're less likely to just sit in your room,” he said. Don't let the experience be a negative one.

IMPORTANT RESOURCES 

Department of Residental Life: Here you can find information on how to apply for a room or change your application. Office hours and contact details are available here.

URL: reslife.missouri.edu/

Moving in tips: This Web site contains how to guides for preparing as well as tips for moving in day.

URL: reslife.missouri.edu/movintomizzou

Learning Communities:  Here you can gain advice and help in adjusting to college life.

URL: reslife.missouri.edu/lc/

You@Mizzou: The college social network site for Missouri

URL: www.mizzouadmissions.org/


 


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