Will sharing a room help me overcome my shyness?
July 8, 2008 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I've just transferred to a new university and I'm applying for accommodation. I'm hoping to get a single room in halls but it looks like there's a good chance I'll have to share. I'm a very shy person and I like my privacy so sharing a room sounds like hell. Do you think it would help me get over my shyness or will it just make me miserable?
posted by Andy Harwood to Human Relations (43 answers total)
I had the same issues when I went to school. I couldn't afford a single room, though, so I dreaded having a roommate. Luckily for me, my roommate dropped out before she even came, so I had the room to myself... until a new girl transferred in a week later. She was much more social than I was, but we ended up becoming the best of friends that year, and she dragged me out of my shell. It was a good experience, and I got over my hangups very quickly.
posted by katillathehun at 10:02 AM on July 8, 2008

I was in a similar situation when I went to college. And, to be honest, it was rough. I had 1 roommate and then 6 more "suitemates" with whom we shared a common "living room", and then 8 MORE people with whom we shared a bathroom and shower area.

On the plus side, it did help me get over my shyness to a degree. It creates an instant social network at the college. If you're going in with a freshman you'll likely room with other freshmen who also don't know anyone. It's a starting point for people to eat lunch with, ask questions about where to go, etc. I did get a private room one year and I felt FAR more isolated from everyone. Like being The Phantom of the College.

But the downside is you WON'T always get along. There will be fights over item use, music too loud, etc. And it can be downright hell if your roommate decides to torture you intentionally (which I have seen and been a victim of).

One tip that I wish I'd known: don't lie; be yourself. Be completely honest about who you are. If you be yourself you'll find that people get along with you a lot better than anyone you pretend to be.
posted by arniec at 10:02 AM on July 8, 2008

The best piece of advice I can give is to try to be accommodating on the little things, but to start, at the very beginning of the year, making clear what your boundaries are. If you let things slip early, then it's much tougher to deal with them halfway through the semester. Things like quiet study time, or drinking and drug use, or girlfriends/boyfriends sleeping over, should be dealt with right away.

I'm a shy and private person, and survived two years with roommates. Try to have an open mind - if all else fails, there are probably support networks in place to deal with conflicts, like RAs or dorm councils.
posted by muddgirl at 10:09 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you are shy, then sharing a room is very good idea. That will be one person you will already know and they can be your low stress introduction to others. As for privacy, you'll have to find your alone time where you can. It is worth it, though!
posted by mkim at 10:10 AM on July 8, 2008

I had the best of both worlds: a single room in a four-bedroom suite/apartment thing. If this is an option, go for it.
posted by mdonley at 10:11 AM on July 8, 2008

I think whether this turns out well or not partly depends on how you approach it, and on what kind of roommate you end up with. (If it's awful, there are ways to get out of it).

But, it's probably a good idea because chances are good that eventually you will live with someone -- friends later in college, after college, or a family of your own. So it's good to learn how to share space. And it might lead to wonderful lasting friendships!
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:16 AM on July 8, 2008

It sounds like hell to me too.

I never had to share a room at university (and even paid more so that I could use a kitchen in the building and not have to eat in the university canteen for every meal), but living for six months in halls with fifty other people even in a single was bad enough. Just the constant presence of others set my teeth on edge the whole time.

I never got even slightly used to it and the constant expectation of round the clock socialness and moved out as quickly as I could afford to. Neither my introversion or my university experience as a whole was any 'better' for having done it. There is no guarantee that sharing would be a positive experience for you (or will cure the apparent 'hangup' that is your shyness) and while I'm not advocating the constant sticking to your comfort zone in all things at all times, starting university is stressful enough that you don't need this extra worry and if you want to be social, you'll be drowning in clubs and societies for that very purpose.

You may turn out to react to enforced sociability completely differently to this hopelessly crotchety old people-hater, of course.
posted by Acarpous at 10:19 AM on July 8, 2008 [3 favorites]

I had a phenomenal college experience and owe much of it to ending up with a great roommate. I was terribly shy at the time and hated the thought of having a roommate, but that's how college works, so I made the best of it.

My first roommate was a disaster. He was a decent enough guy, but his friends were not. We didn't last long as roommates. Two weeks at most. My next roommate quickly became a best friend, and we lived together for four years, until I graduated.

Here's the trick to finding a good roommate: Meet people - especially people in your dorm. There's always a big shuffle of students during the early part of the semester, and it's not hard to find a better roommate.

Remember: college is a traumatic experience for a lot of students who've never been on their own before. But it doesn't have to be. So many students feel the same way you do, with the same fears you have. And that is a good thing, because it means you'll already have enough in common to easily bond.

Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 10:22 AM on July 8, 2008

I don't think you'll be miserable if a) your roommate is the respectful type but more importantly, b) you learn how to be assertive and ensure that your roomie doesn't overstep their boundaries -- which you establish at the beginning so that there is no room for trouble. Some of these boundaries may also take some time to figure out, e.g. you may not know initially that you like studying at 11 p.m. at night and that coincidentally also becomes your roomie's happy hour ... Negotiations like this don't make up the bulk of your roomie friendship but they definitely play a prominent role, and these conversations can happen with minimal awkwardness and stress if you both respect one another. This of course can't happen all the time as we're all prone to bouts of immaturity and emotional trips. Consider yourself lucky that you get to have this experience -- if you're shy you will be forced to interact with people and come out of your shell a little bit. I lived with my folks during my undergrad and I regret not having that bonding experience that everyone else seemed to have had.
posted by Menomena at 10:29 AM on July 8, 2008

Are you an introvert or an extrovert...? Ah screw it. Do it anyway, I used to be painfully shy and seriously it does you no favors. The introvert thing is good but shy definitely isn't!! If.. those people.. suck you dry you can always go hide somewhere to recharge! (And once you get over being shy you'll never have to do this again! tee-hee *races off clicking heels*)

It's more than likely going to suck a fair amount of ass at times... But you'll always be glad you learnt what you did and from time to time you will even miss it a little. Not often or much :) but it does happen.
Not being shy on the otherhand, god I wake up and give that a big kiss good-morning everyday!!
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 10:29 AM on July 8, 2008

If you approach it from the perspective of 'I am going to make this work', you've got a good chance of it being a positive, life-enhancing experience. If you approach it from the perspective of 'this is going to suck', then you've got a rock solid, 100% chance that it will suck.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:29 AM on July 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

I guess I am like Acarpous in that the dorm life made me very tense. I didn't get along with my roommate and I felt uncomfortable all the time, leading to sleeping problems caused not just by tension, but also by her rude habits. I got "sexiled" a few times.

I eventually gained a semblance of sanity by installing a curtain between her side of the room and mine and also purchasing noise-canceling headphones.

My mother realllllllly wanted me to have a roommate because she said it would make me social, etc. etc. Wrong. It just made it hard for me to wake up in the morning because I'd been kept up all night. Some colleges are moving to more humane models that allow some of the experience of sharing, without some of the major stressors, such as suites, where you share a living space, but have your own sleeping quarters.

My hatred for dorm life made it harder to make friends, but I think I made better friends in the end. A lot of people just hang out with people from their dorm by default, even though they don't have much in common. I was forced to seek out people from clubs and other activities, which was more difficult, but the friends I found ended up being a great match.

For awhile I thought I'd never be able to live with people, but later I've had roommates without a problem. The difference is that I know these people and feel comfortable around them and that I make sure that I have some privacy reserved. I worked on a farm and had to share a bed with a friend for months, but I had plenty of space in the house to get away from people and read late into the night if I wanted to. Since she was a friend, she was more considerate of my feelings. If I wanted to go to bed at 9 PM, she didn't burst in and turn on all the lights and complain about it like my dorm roommate did.

Dorm living is uniquely unpleasant for many people. Don't let people tell you that it's some sort of necessary experience for getting used to living with people or making friends.
posted by melissam at 10:33 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had a single and regretted it, because it reinforced my shyness.

When I finally started to live with other people in a house-share situation it was awesome.

The only problem you'll have if you're shy is avoiding becoming passive-aggressive. You think, "oh, to keep the peace, (and because it's more comfortable for me) I just won't say anything, take one for the team, be nice and keep quiet, put up with it, let it go, avoid going back to my room, etc."

If something makes you mad, you need to say so that same day. Even if you think it's foolish, just say "that annoys me a little bit". Then you can work on a solution. Sometimes you will have to just put up with it, but give your roommate the chance to have a good relationship with you. Let them be nice to you!

I had a roommate who would stew and stew and complain to everyone but us. It got old because often we would have just FIXED THE PROBLEM. We had no idea that he hated watching the TV that we watched. We would've changed the channel, let him have the remote, gone elsewhere, but he never said anything. So he avoided the living room for a year. I'm sure he thought he was being nice, but it didn't do anyone any good.

Avoid that, and you'll be golden.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:33 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had to share when I first started at university and hated it; if anything, it meant I spent far less time around people as I'd want to stay in if my obnoxious roommate was out to get the place to myself. I (politely) nagged the admin staff every day until they found me a single room.

Obviously it largely depends on who you share with, but I think overcoming shyness without somewhere to retreat to if it all gets too much could be more difficult.
posted by malevolent at 10:40 AM on July 8, 2008

I wouldn't worry about "overcoming" anything, but I'm quite introverted and thoroughly enjoyed my mandatory university roommate experience. I think in most cases, it ends up working out pretty well, and people I knew at school who got out of the madatory roommate policy ended up feeling a bit isolated--as tough as it is having to adjust to having someone in your room all the time, it's also tough to go to a crowded dining hall all by yourself. However, as others have said, the amount of enjoyment you obtain from the experience will depend on the person you have as a roommate, as well as the people who are living on your hall or in your shared suite. My experience went pretty well though; the only people I still talk to from college were in my dorm suite my first year.

Just remember that you don't *have* to do everything or go to every (or any) party that your roommate does. They'll most likely be perfectly fine with letting you be yourself. No one's going to actively force you to do anything you don't want to (other than all the Up With People-type assholes at orientation and their meeting activities), and be honest with your dormmates about things you don't want to do or are uncomfortable with. It won't be that bad. Most people are actually pretty decent. Don't worry about it.
posted by LionIndex at 10:45 AM on July 8, 2008

I ended up in a shared room at the start of my first year at the University of York. It was not pleasant at all - we completely failed to develop any kind of friendship and it eventually came to the point where we stopped talking altogether.

Living in halls is a very social experience - that's pretty unavoidable. I found the experience very beneficial, to the point where few people would have guessed that I'd arrived a shy, quiet, studious type.

In my experience sharing a room (particularly as a fairly quiet person) means you have nowhere where you can take time to yourself. If the thought of a shared room horrifies you, talk to someone in the accommodation office and you'll almost certainly get a result - even if it means going on a waiting list for a few weeks. A certain percentage of students usually drop out in the first term, so rooms become available. In my case, I kept the double room, and he moved.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 10:48 AM on July 8, 2008

FWIW, I'm still a total introvert, avoid parties like the plague, and sit at my desk all day with headphones on, hardly saying a word to anybody. I still loved my first year of college, even though my roommate that year eventually went on to become the president of his fraternity chapter (can you imagine?!). Even if things get pretty bad with the roommate, there'll be plenty of other quiet places you can go hang out in a library or study hall.
posted by LionIndex at 10:50 AM on July 8, 2008

Depends on how well you click with your roommate and how proactive you are about discussing expectations, needs and any possible problems. Like all other aspects of the college experience (and life, really) you get out of a roommate relationship what you put into it, plus or minus a little luck and circumstance.

Roommates are always a crap shoot. I had an awesome roommate my first year, but he was a junior so I didn't get that frosh social network/bonding experience. Soph year I had an also-shy frosh roommate that I didn't really click with and who had his womb of high school buddies in place. He moved out partly through the first semester and I had no roomies after that. I never really made major strides to overcome my shyness until after college, but I also never had a roomie situation that was utterly intolerable. College was alright, but I think college would have been 1000% more awesome if I had the social skills then that I have now, so I strongly second everyone else who said that you should do whatever you need to do to improve your shyness.

Success in this situation also depends a lot on where your boundaries lie and where you are on your path. If you realistically assess yourself and realize that you really CAN NOT function without the privacy of a single room, then you probably are not in a place where you can benefit from the change and you would do well to go to counseling and see if they can write you an accessibility note that states that you are not psychologically able to share a living situation at this point in time. (Also: See this AskMe.) The tricky part is determining the gray area between "I CAN NOT DO THIS" and "I JUST DON'T WANT TO" and "I COULD DO IT, BUT THERE ARE MORE MINUSES THAN PLUSES HERE."

Some pertinent questions to ask yourself might be: "Does my shyness affect my ability to accomplish day-to-day tasks? Does it prevent me from doing things that I want to do with my life? How would I handle living with someone who I do not like or who does not like me? If having a roommate helps me overcome shyness, what types of events or milestones would happen to let me know that it was working? How can I make those things happen?" All living situations involve conflict: "What do you normally do when there's conflict? Does that work? What would work best and are you able to do those things?"

If you're in an emotional place where you're open minded and interested in improving your living and social skills, then go for it with eyes open and a realistic expectation that you will have to strive to be a less-shy communicator and that even if you do your best things might still not work out because of luck and circumstance.

The key to becoming a better person and learning to live and thrive with something like shyness is to always set yourself up for success, but to also gradually raise the stakes and the difficulty. In psychology, it's called mastery experiences. Success with roommates is a great mastery experience, but it's also a really high stakes situation that's not entirely controllable.
posted by Skwirl at 10:50 AM on July 8, 2008

If you are just shy, or even antisocial (in that, you avoid and find most social rituals draining and/or uncomfortable, especially due to unfamiliarity) but not actively misanthropic, as it sounds like Acarpous might be, I think living with a roommate can do wonderful things to help with your social abilities and willingness to interact with people.

I came to university really dreading the process of meeting people I would feel at all comfortable with. As it happened, my first-year roommate and myself had virtually nothing in common, so we never bonded much, and even today we do not keep in contact. However, it just so happened that she befriended other people on our floor (one of whom is now a very close friend of mine), and it was through her that I got involved in the volunteer organization through which I did meet many of my long-term, awesome friends. If I had been allowed to live on my own in solitude that first year, I would have been miserably clinging on to friendships from back home for even longer than I did -- friendships that had little to recommend them at that point, anyway.

So, I think many others have mentioned good point already about setting boundaries, and trying to allow yourself to shrug off minor faux pas. But there is something very enriching about learning to live gracefully with another person who inevitably does not see everything in the same way you do (piles of papers on the floor, going to bed a few hours before or after you do, etc.) If you go into the situation expecting that there WILL be some clashes, but you communicate with your roommate that you are willing to talk about things, that will go a long way towards ensuring your survival. And you might even meet some great people through it, too.
posted by dorothy humbird at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2008

Are you a light sleeper? I'm not sure if there's a correlation between being shy and being a light sleeper, but I've always suspected that there is. Anyway, I'm shy and I'm a very light sleeper. I had roommates all four years of college. I got past the shyness aspect of dealing with roommates, but I never was able to sleep very well. If you think you will have trouble sleeping through the sound of your roommate typing or watching a movie in the adjacent room, you might want to consider a single for that reason.
posted by diogenes at 11:00 AM on July 8, 2008

Does your university have "quiet" dorms? That might be a good option. You would still have a roommate, but it would likely be somebody who would be more considerate of your privacy (since they likely need privacy too). I never lived in the quite dorms at my school because I was afraid I'd miss out on all the fun they were having in the regular dorms, but if I was doing it now I'd definitely live in a quiet dorm. Of course that's easy to say now that I'm older and I don't care about missing anything.
posted by diogenes at 11:09 AM on July 8, 2008

I had the same roommate for 4 years of college; and he is my best friend. My advice to you is: you absolutely need this experience. You can not expect to go through life closed up inside your shell. Soon, you will leave the protective net that is your current situation and join the world. The world is full of people. There are good ones and there are bad ones; and you will need the skill to recognize them; live with them and deal with them. Whatever the situation you are in right now that allow you to be shy, it's over. It's won't last forever even if you fight tooth and nail to keep it. So, time to embrace change and jump into the world.

A very important aspect of college is to teach you social skill. You won't be dealing with only abstracts. Even in a technical field, your professors, your T.A., your classmates; they are all human beings that you will have to interact with to learn what you want to learn and find out where you want to go and what you want to be. Through interaction, you will know yourself better, and you will change for the better (or so I hope, because you or your parents are paying lots of money for this training). Don't cheat yourself of this experience. Even with a hellish roommate, at least you will learn to recognize them and keep away from them.

Living close to another person is great training for another important roommate down the line: your spouse. I don't know if you want to marry eventually, but if you do, that's what a spouse is, a very long term roommate. Hopefully you will learn how to seek, select, attract, negotiate, adapt, and live with a good roommate, because all those skill will be very helpful a few years from now. You may even find your future spouse in college (rare, but it happens).

If you are still apprehensive about this problem, devote some resources to mitigate the problem. Read advices above, actively searching for a good roommate when you get to the campus (a little care in selecting is worth a hundred time the skill to deal with problem later), open up, express your preference while interviewing potential roommates, and if you are really apprehensive, ask the residents about procedure in changing roommate if it doesn't work out.

In summary, worry but have hope. Work to anticipate and mitigate possible problem, but embrace it and any changes that may result.
posted by curiousZ at 11:33 AM on July 8, 2008

I am shy (according to this comment I would be "antisocial") and I hoped that going to college would cure me of it. Signed up for six-person rooming group for my freshman year and was miserable for all of it. I had friends, but they weren't the people I roomed with. I found them in the extracurriculars I was active in. Some people are just happier picking the people they want to friends with.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:40 AM on July 8, 2008

There's really great advice here, so I won't go into repeating everything I was going to post.

Just two things:
1) Keep in mind that you will probably see your roommate only rarely. In the second and third years I only ever saw mine just before bed, since we tended to study in the library, had different friends, and very different schedules. Most of the time it kind of was like having my own room, except that I only got to use half the storage space.

2) the first couple months do suck - everything is so new, you don't know where buildings are, you have to eat with strangers, you don't know the person who's sleeping in the bunk under you, etc. But give it six months and then if you're truly miserable, apply for a transfer and they'll put you on a waiting list.

Don't wait for a transfer if your roommate is actually a horrible person, though. There's no need to suffer someone who teases you or steals from you or whatever. Residential Life usually doesn't want to alienate the people that are paying it thousands of dollars for a room, and will try to help you out.

But yeah, I'm shy and I hated the idea of sharing a room too, and I'm REALLY glad I did.
posted by GardenGal at 11:48 AM on July 8, 2008

You know, it might be worth a try. How it goes will depend on many things, including your compatibility with your roommate and your own innate capacity to share a living space with someone else. But I don't think you'll actually learn either of those things until you try it. As you've obviously figured out already, being introverted provides both extra challenges and extra opportunities.

I am also introverted--sometimes shy, and I love/need alone time. Before college I never had to share my living space, other than at summer camp. I lived in various shared living situations throughout my four years of college: a regular double room, a triple room in an eight-person suite, a double in a four-person suite with strangers, a double in a four-person suite with a friend roomie and stranger suitemates. None were perfect, none were horrible. Things come up that seem super dramatic at first, then, over the years, you learn not to give them that power. The weird thing is that living in the same bedroom with others didn't seem that weird at the time, but I can't imagine it now.

There were times when living with others made me more social, other times less. I'd say overall though the net result was positive. Still, college can be hard. It can be very lonely, no matter the living situation or even how much time you spend with others. Give it a try, and allow yourself the alone time you need.

The good news is that if you have an introverted roommate, they'll understand. And if you have an extroverted one, you'll have alone time anyway because extroverts don't spend a ton of time in their dorm rooms. If the bad stuff like sexiles or theivery come up, stand up for yourself. And if it really is that bad, it's temporary--you can go for a single next time. Some people really can't live with others at all. Better to find it out in this very temporary situation than in a more real-world, financially scary situation. I think it's worth it to find out these things about yourself.
posted by lampoil at 12:04 PM on July 8, 2008

I think sharing a room kinda sucks, although sharing a living situation is just fine.
posted by grouse at 12:17 PM on July 8, 2008

I'm going to join Acarpous in saying it sounds like hell.

I shared a room with a roommate for two successive semesters and while I liked both women, it was utterly hellish to have nowhere to retreat to when I was out of social energy. Just living in a dorm will ensure that you get invited and cajoled into coming to every social event within a half mile of you - I promise you, even in a single you'll end up going to dance parties, ice cream socials, pajama parties, etc etc etc.

You do not need to have a roommate to become less shy and come out of your shell. I'd say lobby heavily for getting a single room - if admins understand how important it is to you, often some vacancy will be found for you.

Being an introvert is normal and natural. If this is what you are (you get more energy from having space to yourself, rather than an extrovert who derives energy from being with others) you can still have a healthy fulfilling social life, but in order to be happy you need to have a private space to retreat to.

If you end up with a roommate, start scouring campus for quiet places that can be your refuge. When you need quiet time, have no qualms about retreating to that space and just being quiet by yourself for a while.
posted by arnicae at 12:21 PM on July 8, 2008

I really didn't get anything out of sharing a room -- I know a couple of roommate pairs who stayed really good friends, but most people hated their roommates by the end of the year -- my roommate didn't like me, talked about me behind my back ALL THE TIME and never ever brought up any of her problems with me to me, and we actually barely spoke to each other for like 6 of the 8 months we shared rooms. It was *not* a good experience, and it made it uncomfortable for me to socialize with lots of the people on my floor because she was friends with them/would be out with the group, so it was actually really socially isolating for me. I stuck it out, worked out ways to stay out of her way as much as possible, and eventually did make friends with lots of kids on my floor, but honestly, I should have been more assertive and laid down some ground rules/ talked to my RA about it/ tried to get transferred.

So bearing that in mind, I'd recommend sitting down and working out some stuff -- like around music/ giving each other space/ making sure both people get some "alone time." I feel like we both would have been happier if we'd done that instead of assuming we'd get along and then realizing we totally didn't and kind of having this silent war of wills over dumb stuff that we could have just *talked* about. Living in my own bedroom the next year worked out much better for me.
posted by SoftRain at 12:22 PM on July 8, 2008

I had a roommate for one out of the four semesters I lived in the dorms. It was awful. I paid for a single room after that. But, I did still have a suite mate that I shared a bathroom with, which wasn't bad at all. Unlike what many people are saying, I don't think it's necessary to have a roommate to get over shyness or anything like that. You will still be living in a building full of people you can make friends with.
posted by All.star at 12:38 PM on July 8, 2008

There is a lot of good advice. Mine is to try it, but if the other person is horrible, by all means, apply for a transfer. I am like you - a geeky introvert, anxious as all hell about the situation, but I really didn't have a choice on the roommate situation.

That being said, i did have an ok roommate. We didn't hang out, we weren't friends, she was a party type and I wasn't, but we were civil to each other. I think she and her bf only had sex on my bed once, but on her 19th bday they taped a sign to her back that said "If found drunk, please return to room XXX in Hall YYY, but please don't wake her roommate!", which I thought was kinda nice. I did spend the majority of my time in the other dorm with my good friend and her roommate (she had a scholarship, so her room was assigned long before they even accepted me), so that probably helped. In the end, it wasn't horrible.

And no matter what happens, it's a learning experience. And seriously, that's what college is all about.

So yeah - it could go either way. You could meet your best friend. You could find yourself in a situation tolerable given the money saved. You could wind up with stuff that's hard to deal with at the time, but makes for great stories later. Give it a chance -- you'll really only have this opportunity once. The good that come out of it, the chance to make lifelong friends, really really outweighs the bad, which can be dealt with as the need arises.
posted by cgg at 12:47 PM on July 8, 2008

Oops - i didn't mean to call *you* a geek, I meant that as *I* am a geek. Sorry.
posted by cgg at 12:48 PM on July 8, 2008

When I have children, and they go to college, I will pay whatever it takes for them to have their own, non-shared accommodations at college. If they want to share with a friend or friends, I will do whatever I can to make that happen as well.

If you have a good roommate, things are fine. If you have a terrible one, or even just a not-good one, it adds a level of stress that is nothing but a distraction. In what other circumstance (besides the military) are you forced to live with someone you know nothing about and have nothing in common with? Learning to live with a roommate is a valuable skill but that's much different than being stuck in a room with someone whose ability to play well with others may be even worse than one's own.

You'll get over your shyness by talking to people with whom you already have a shared interest - classmates, clubs, groups, teams, campus activities.

I second the suggestion that you sit down and work basic things out: sleep time, nap time, cleanliness, laundry, 'special guests'. One person's disaster zone is another's random sock in the middle of the floor. Guys seem to have this easier than girls, but I realize that's a generalization (i'm a chick, before everyone jumps on me).
posted by micawber at 12:51 PM on July 8, 2008

Don't believe the people who think having roommates is a magical shell-breaking experience. My first year in college, I had two fantastic roommates and four so-so ones (in a five-person suite--two dropped out..). In fact my roommate from freshman year is the only reason I have a social network in New York City at all.

But that doesn't mean we were good at living together. The experience that Acarpous reports was mine too. That feeling of tension never really went away, and more than that--it started making me an actively worse person. Eventually I just completely abandoned the common area and spent time either getting wasted in Brooklyn or hiding in my room or taking solitary walks. I had no investment in helping the suite community, and neither did anyone else--so the suite was permanently trashed. My roommate is still one of my best friends, but we both agree we're much better off not living together.

In August, before sophomore year, I moved out to Flatbush to pay $900/month for a studio apartment where I could live by myself. It was worth every penny. Having a home space distinct from social space and work space, it turns out, works wonders for your psychic health. I've got one semester left of school, and never once did I consider moving back into the dorms. Fuck that noise.
posted by nasreddin at 1:00 PM on July 8, 2008

I have to say that as another very shy person, this sounds like hell to me too. I definitely like my own space.

My first year at uni I lived in a flat with four other girls, which I rather liked, and this year I lived in a flat with two other girls, which was pretty hellish because the other two didn't get on.

However, I have to say, I have wondered what it would be like to have had a room mate in my first (or even second) year because I didn't make as many friends as I'd have liked. To be fair, this was mainly because I was suffering from depression and it was far too easy to hide away in my room. There were periods when I would hardly see my flatmates at all - I tended to eat at different times from them, so no-one would be in the kitchen/living area, and the rest of the time I was home I'd stay in my room. So there were periods when I got very lonely, (which made me miserable, which made me want to stay in my room anyway.)

Also (since you're also shy you may understand this) I tend to find it very hard to go into a room where there are people already hanging out etc. I feel like I'm interrupting and bothering them. So that made me stay away from the living area even more, and then I got into the habit and it was even harder to leave my room and spend time around my flatmates.

So I suppose my opinion is that while I enjoyed having my own room, I think sharing a room would have been a lot better for me in the long run. Obviously, I am not you. But I am also very shy. So you may very likely find similar.
posted by badmoonrising at 1:15 PM on July 8, 2008

I was shy when I went to university. I lived off campus because I couldn't afford res and I worked full-time near my home rather than on campus. I did not make one friend in University - you don't make them in class and if you are too shy to join clubs/teams then you may find yourself becoming very isolated.
posted by saucysault at 1:21 PM on July 8, 2008

Response by poster: Badmoonrising: I lived in a single room in halls last year (I'm transferring after completing a year at a different uni) and I had pretty much the exact same experience.
posted by Andy Harwood at 1:32 PM on July 8, 2008

I think that the biggest problem with dorm rooms is that most of them were built when unmarried people were not expected to have a sex life.

Gah, roommates from hell! My first was a slutty cop's daughter with asthma who--because of this-- the school housing assumed didn't smoke and was put with me because I requested a nonsmoking roommate. Uh, no. Most of the doubles in the building had two entrances but the corner rooms (which we had) only had one. Guess who had the side with the door and had to deal with the endless parade ? We lasted three weeks together and she later contacted scabies which everyone thought was the crabs.

I'm the sort who likes being around small groups but needs a quiet space to decompress when I'm overwhelmed. What helped for me was being involved in a school activity that I liked...in my case the literary magazine.
posted by brujita at 3:03 PM on July 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I feel better about sharing now. I've applied for a standard single but I'm applying very late so there's a good chance I'll get a double. There's also a pretty good chance that I won't get a place in halls at all so I may have to find private accommodation.
posted by Andy Harwood at 3:18 PM on July 8, 2008

Personally, as an introvert who isn't shy, I couldn't cope with a roommate. I have enough problems living with my husband, and I really really really like him a lot.

I shared a room with my brother for two years, and it was hell on earth.

Me, I need privacy and solitude. It's an actual need, not a want, either, which has unfortunately been proven a number of times. The more stressed I am the more acute that gets. Symptoms include panic attacks when I don't get enough alone time.

Sure, a lot of people thrive on that sort of thing. Not me. If it was life or death, I could tolerate it - maybe - at the cost of large portions of my sanity.

But hey, that's just me, and I'm a weirdo. You might do fine.

Incidentally; I made piles of friends while living a loooong way off campus, with a ghastly commute, and a hectic schedule. Living with people is not necessary for meeting them.
posted by ysabet at 3:59 PM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is a difficult question, and my answer can go either way. It's definitely possible that having a roommate will be a wonderful, enriching experience that will help you flourish in every way. And, yes, it's also possible that having a roommate will be absolute hell. It depends on your rooming situation: the size of your dorm room and how it's set up (even a small room can be set up so that it seems like you have more privacy and space that is your own), what your eventual roommate will be like, and what sort of options your campus offers for studying outside of your dorm room (libraries, common areas, etc.).

I had three unbearable years at college with a total of five roommates who made my time there completely miserable. But, everyone has a different experience. There is no 'normal' college experience. Each college has its differences, as does every roommate. Since I didn't exactly flourish, it's hard to give advice, but when I look back on the many ways in which I failed, I wish that I would have stood up for myself more. You have just as much a right to be there and to succeed as anyone else in your class. Don't let people walk all over you, especially if you're a non-confrontational sort. I like arniec's and muddgirl's advice. There's no way of knowing if you'll click with your roommate or not, but it's important (and I wish I had done this) to define your boundaries. Living in such close spaces, there's going to have to be compromise on both sides. And, you need to know what your priorities are and not let roommates who always want to party or friends who always want to hang out derail them. If you set boundaries with yourself first, it'll be even easier to set boundaries with other people, I think.

I know there are great roommates out there, and I sincerely hope that, if you can't get a single, you find a great roommate. Good luck with everything!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:43 PM on July 8, 2008

It's hell. Don't do it if you don't want to. Live off campus, choose another school, do whatever you have to do, but don't live in a dorm if you're not suited to it. I hated it, the school wouldn't let me out of shared housing, and I ended up dropping out I was so miserable. It's been fifteen years and I'm still furious at that school. At least since I dropped out they didn't get any more money out of me, even if I did waste a year of my life there.

College should prepare you for a job, no more or less. It sucks that we've made it into a rite of passage.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:26 PM on July 8, 2008

Speaking from personal experience, sharing a room with others was hell. They were great guys and most of 'em are still good friends to this day, but I hated every second of it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:06 PM on July 8, 2008

Do you think it would help me get over my shyness or will it just make me miserable?

It could quite possibly do both!
posted by WWJB at 8:52 AM on July 9, 2008

« Older Help me find an ecommerce solution for digital...   |   Non-annoying Traditional Kids CD's Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.