Dorm Life: Learning to Share

on December 4, 2013

Not all the education offered at colleges and universities is confined to the ivy-covered halls and classrooms. Learning about life away from the nest and coping on your own are major lessons that come from the college experience.

Possibly the first and most daunting lesson comes in learning to live with others, particularly if you are going to be living in a dormitory. This type of sharing is far different from life at home, even if you shared a room with a younger sibling. Here you will be in a community of equals, with only a resident assistant – another college student – to turn to in times of conflict.

In a dorm, you will not only be sharing where you sleep, change clothes, and study. You also will be waiting for your turn in the showers and to use the communal washer and dryer. Depending on the setup, you could be sharing an oven and refrigerator with several dozen people.

Imagine the students with whom you attend high school. Now imagine living with them – friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike – from morning to night and on weekends. That’s when you truly get to know the habits of others, particularly the annoying ones.

So, in order to survive dorm life, a resident must cultivate patience. After all, you probably have annoying habits, too.

There are other, more practical tips that can smooth the rough edges of life among equally uncertain residents. Consider these:

• Personal property – Unless you absolutely can’t live without it, it’s best to leave your most valuable or valued possessions at home with Mom and Dad. Concerning what you do bring: Label everything so there will be no question of ownership. This could mean sewing in labels, using a marker, or even using an etching pen on bicycles or other metal items. It’s not that your dorm mates are thieves. But things have a habit of finding their way from room to room, only to be left behind, forgotten.

• Cleanliness – Remember what your mother said and clean up after yourself, particularly in a shared bathroom. Consider the one using the room after you. Respect your roommate’s space and keep your clothes and accessories in your area. That also will lessen the risk of misplacing valuables.

• Rules – On the subject of roommates, it would be best to contact them before heading to college to find out about them and their likes and dislikes. You can also start laying out a list of ground rules concerning lights–out times, guests, study times, and the like. This might be easier to do by email than face-to-face.

• Openness – Leave your dorm room door open whenever you can. This indicates you’re friendly and available for chats or to help with homework or other problems. It can also open yourself up to making new, lasting friendships.

Dorm living can be not only survivable, but can be one of the more entertaining and educational of your college experiences. Just approach it with a few rules and a lot of patience.


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