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Roommates can be tricky. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you have to live with them. Many students dream of going to college and becoming instant best friends with their roommate(s), and while that is the reality for some, many roommates are just trying to make it through the semester together. With COVID, this gets even tricker - the lack of things to do leaves a lot of extra time in the dorms. Small things that might irritate you or your roommate are exacerbated by the amount of time spent in the dorms as compared to when classes were conducted in person.

There are many components that go into a peaceful coexistence with roommates. When it comes to navigating any successful relationship, the key is communication and boundaries. Boundaries are your best friend especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, as you and your roommate(s) may not agree on what is “safe” at a time like this. If all roommates set clear boundaries and are open and transparent with each other, it is likely you can reach a compromise or happy medium once the other party knows where you’re coming from.

While it’s best to set concrete boundaries when you start living together, we are now in the home-stretch of the semester and it’s likely you’ll need to remind your roommates of your boundaries. You can start this conversation by saying something like: “Hey! I’m not really comfortable with you doing this” and explaining that it’s for x-y-z reason. It is easier to understand people when you know where they are coming from, especially if just stating that you don’t like something isn’t enough. College is a huge transition and we all come from different backgrounds. Some people have had experiences living with others, whether that was with siblings at home, bunkmates at camp, or touring with their sports team, while some people are completely foreign to the concept of sharing a living space. Knowing where the other person is coming from makes a world of a difference in navigating your relationship.

I know what you’re thinking, it’s easier said than done. If your roommate is going to large-gatherings and putting you at risk, it is hard to get them to see your point of view if they do not care about the virus. This can cause a strain in the relationship and the environment can become very tense if not handled. You could sit down with them and say you really don’t want to risk having to quarantine and how that would affect you in the case they contract it and contact-trace you. You could even leave them a note if you’re uncomfortable with direct confrontation.

Sometimes you just need time alone for your mental health too and it is okay to ask your roommate to acknowledge that. Keeping an open line of communication is key and at the end of the day, there has to be a mutual respect for any communication to be heard.

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