I tried to avoid making any expectations before starting college. That way I could protect myself from disappointed when things turned out differently than I expected. But like any other incoming freshman, I found myself worrying about succeeding in my classes, making friends, and, of course, getting along with my roommates.
I was lucky enough to connect with my roommates over the summer. But as soon as I found them on social media, I also found reason to be concerned about how well this living arrangement would work. I didn’t find anything bad per se, but I did find things that didn’t sit quite right with me. But, being the optimistic person that I am, I took this in stride. In my mind, college was going to be a set of challenges regardless of how much I prepared. Communal living is an adjustment for anyone, so this would just be another, hopefully not that complicated, piece of the puzzle.
I could not have been any more wrong if I tried.
To put it politely, it was a bad match. My roommates and I were entirely different in every respect. It was not a good dynamic. The tension, discomfort and fighting that existed between kept me from going back to my room. So I stayed away altogether until I returned home to sleep.
It was not fun or healthy. But looking back, it helped to make my first semester the amazing time.
Since I avoided my room like the plague, I ended up spending a great deal of time in my floor’s lounge,as well as in various study spaces across campus. I signed up for every activity that interested me and went to all the meetings. I jumped on every invitation I got to hang out or go to dinner with groups of people. And because of this, I flourished.
Many freshmen tend to only socialize with people on their floor because they are all new to the college environment and can share in anxieties and adventures. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, my best friend was my next-door neighbor from my first room. But when you leave your hall, you open yourself to so many new and diverse options and opportunities that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Through the clubs I joined, and even by just chatting with strangers around campus, I became friendly with a huge number of people across the campus. I know students in all different grades and areas of study who advise on what classes or teachers to take. They help me navigate college living. I’ve networked and made connections with faculty and staff, and as a second-semester freshman am working as a staff writer for a campus magazine, a tour guide in the admissions office and an intern at Hillel. I’ve even gotten to go on all kinds of fun adventures with friends in D.C., finding fun museums or cool coffee shops that became my favorite go-to places.
But arguably the most important thing I gained from this experience was the courage to be a self-advocate. I was in a bad situation and I let it get to me. I didn’t take care of myself. My mental, emotional and to some degree even my physical health all suffered because I was unhappy. It took my mom pushing me, and then finally stepping in, to make a difference. When I finally got a room change and realized how much better I felt just from having a healthier living environment, I realized just how important it is to really stand up for yourself.
I don’t like confrontation. As a result, I tend to settle. This, unfortunately, is true of a lot of people. But after everything I went through—all the fights and tears and nights spent staying up late so I could come back to a quiet room—I’ve realized just how important it is to advocate for yourself when something is wrong or making you unhappy.
I’m honestly glad that I held out for as long as I did. It helped me make friends, find my place on campus and learn how to take care of myself. This is not to say that I’d recommend this for anyone else. If you experience roommate trouble, do whatever you can as soon as you can to figure it out. Talk with your roommates, go to your RA, even go to a campus resource if necessary. In the end, you’ll be so glad that you did.
You’ll make so many great friends, connections and memories if you just put yourself out there.