Up until college, you’ve probably never lived with anyone who wasn’t your immediate family, let alone a complete stranger. Maybe you’ve never even shared a room before either. Needless to say, having your first roommate is definitely a transition, and you’ll continue adjusting to different roommates after college as well. But this is the best place to not only learn how to live with others, but also learn how to be a great friend, spouse, and overall great human being!

Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from some of the roommates I’ve had so far:

Go With The Flow

Don’t take yourself too seriously! It’s okay to try new things. In fact, you’ll be missing out if you don’t! My freshman year of college, my roommate and I were looking for things to do in the area. We got bored one Friday afternoon, and on a spur-of-the-moment decision, she decided to go down to Haight Street in San Francisco and get her first tattoo. It was something she had always wanted to do, but also something that we used to make an adventure out of. So, we took almost our entire freshman floor down with us to help her experience the moment. I became designated photographer, our other friend was moral support, and everyone else just gawked. Imagine 25 girls, all squeezed in Mom’s Tattoo Shop, in the middle of the city. It was one of our first memories in college and something that really bonded all of us from the get-go. Here are more tips to how to bond with your roommate.

Listen

Everyone has a story. There was this girl on my floor that seemed to have it all together ALL the time. She had the grades, the friends, and seemed to get just about anything she wanted. One night we were up late talking, when she pretty much opened up and just told me her entire life story. It was far from what I imagined. She had been in foster care most of her life, had just met her mom that summer, and had a twin brother who she’s never really lived with. It was the first time I think I really came to the realization that there’s a whole world outside of my bubble of suburbia where I grew up. It was surreal to hear someone my age have such a different life experience than me. But it taught me a great lesson – if you listen long enough and are actually interested instead of competing and comparing, people end up revealing who they really are. Most people actually really want to talk, if someone will listen.

Respect

In college you learn that the world isn’t going to be like you at all. But you either choose to learn to respect and appreciate it or just live in conflict.

I had a roommate one year who couldn’t be more different than me. It felt like everything about us was different. She grew up with maids and butlers; I didn’t. She was into neo-surrealist and Dadaist art; I was into whatever looked nice. Her lifestyle and choices were different than mine to say the least and we never met eye-to-eye on certain beliefs or. However, it was probably one of best lessons I could have learned. I respected her for who she was, and she respected me. I respected her choices and decisions and was interested in her life. In fact I felt pretty involved! I knew her friends and family back home, we would Skype with them together, and would go out to eat at her favorite restaurants. Likewise, she would come out with me and my friends and knew what was going on in my life all the time. We were both influenced by each other in some ways (I now know what Dadaism is!), but more importantly, respected each other, differences and all. Here are some guides on how to have a good roommate relationship with anyone!

Be Clean

When I became an upperclassman in college I decided to get a flat with some friends. I was so excited! Finally! People I knew I wanted to live with and our own place in the city! Nothing could get any better than this.

And then my roommate lost her Pad Thai lunch somewhere in our room… for 2 days. I have no idea how that happens.

I’m definitely not claiming to be the cleanest person there is; however, I realized that I do draw a line at lost Pad Thai. And I also learned to raise my standards of cleanliness far higher than lost food. You don’t want to be stuck being the person who cleans up after others and just gets silently bitter. You also don’t want to be the person everyone is silently bitter at. So be clean! Cleanliness goes a long way. It really speaks of your character in many ways, but it also makes you an easier person to get along with and someone people want to be around. As far as living with someone though, make sure ground rules are set early and don’t hold back on addressing anything that gets in the way from making your home feel like home. Here is some advice on how to handle different types of roommates.

Care

Now, my last few roommates and households have been pretty amazing! I’ve had roommates who have stayed up until I got home, just to catch up. One who has definitely helped get me up in the morning when I had an early job to make sure I wouldn’t be late. And, as of lately, roommates who have just taken the time to help me go grocery shopping when they realized all I ever bought was almond milk, yogurt, and kombucha. They’ve just helped me with life in general, and at the risk of sounding too needy, I really did need them in those times. The thing is that they took notice, and cared. They didn’t have to do any of that, but they did. Taking time out for someone else goes a long way. Decide to not just overlook the needs around you, but do something about it, surprise someone by how much you care; it doesn’t take much.

Who are people in your life right now that you can choose to learn something from?

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