Navigating life with roommates at CSULB for the first time

Whether you’re living in an on-campus dorm or an apartment, having a roommate is an aspect of college life many people will experience. And it can be memorable, for better or worse.

Being with a roommate now is definitely a completely unique experience since we’re still living in a pandemic, but there are parallels to when I lived with a roommate for the first time.

I lived in Hillside College when I arrived as a freshman in 2018. I met my roommate, and we bonded almost immediately since we both came from nearby cities in Northern California.

I hadn’t shared a room with anyone before, so I was open to making a deep friendship with the roommate I had, even though we were assigned to each other by random through the CSULB Housing portal.

The first few weeks went by seamlessly, and I had a sense of relief that things would be alright. We found out we liked the same video games, shows, music genres, sports and more.

Everything started just fine — until the pace of the semester kicked in and work had to be completed.

I take my schoolwork very seriously. I need a quiet environment to thrive, and since that meant working alone in my small space in the room, I preferred staying there to complete my tasks. My roommate, however, didn’t allow that.

He would play Fortnite and other games all the time with his online friends, so there would constant loud noise from the TV and screaming. I play games often, but I know how to maintain courteous volume. Despite doing a roommate agreement to set boundaries, I felt it wasn’t respected. When I’d communicate I’m going to sleep for an early class, he’d acknowledge it and keep playing.

The relationship soured as the semester wore on, and it took a toll on my mental health. I was sleep-deprived and couldn’t be sane in the one place I was supposed to have privacy. A roommate mediation failed, and I eventually sought a new room.

Better communication and being considerate would’ve helped, as we would’ve been good friends if we weren’t roommates.

Venus Herrera, a third-year student majoring in communications, also had a bad roommate experience when she lived in Parkside College as a freshman in 2019.

Herrera found a roommate through an Instagram page for Class of 2023 members. Similar to my experience, Herrera and her roommate got close at first until a personal conflict occurred, forcing Herrera to be in a different room with friends to avoid the awkward energy.

From there, their relationship went downhill as her roommate started disrespecting Herrera’s sleep times in the morning.

“When we did stay in the room together, it seemed like a pettiness contest when the other was sleeping,” Herrera said. “I was a night owl, and she was an early bird. She started to bring her friends over in our room at 6 a.m. when I was still asleep, having no kind of courtesy.”

That made Herrera replicate the behavior.

“It was annoying, so I started to bring in friends late at night to bug her,” Herrera said. “This was not healthy for both of us, but we continued.”

Prior to this situation, Herrera and her roommate talked out smaller-level disagreements. Both would engage in productive conversations to fix the issue at hand, but once that personal matter arose, the two just couldn’t talk under any circumstance.

Herrera learned from this experience that not being avoidant and seeking help for these situations are major keys.

But not all roommate experiences have to be bad.

Jimmy Ly, a fourth-year student majoring in mechanical engineering, rented a one-bedroom apartment with three other friends in 2019. Two people shared the room while the other two converted the living room into a bedroom.

“It was quite a cramp, but it was bearable,” Ly said. “We wanted to save money so there was no other way around it.”

Even though it could’ve been difficult to co-exist in that setting, Ly said there was just one issue before the pandemic forced everyone to move out.

“There was a disagreement about keeping plants indoors since it attracted a lot of fruitflies,” Ly said. “We just collectively told him that the situation is getting out of hand, and he eventually got rid of it. That was pretty much it. We got along surprisingly well.”

After I moved out of that room, I found a roommate that respected my boundaries, and I respected his. We never had one conflict the entire semester, and our communication was spot on.

My experience was memorable because, even though it didn’t end well, I learned about myself and how I cope best with roommates. Setting boundaries, communicating frequently and respecting each other goes a long way in establishing healthy relationships with someone in your shared living space, especially in today’s pandemic.

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