One thing UMW boasts (rightfully so) is its stalwart roots in community. The university is a great place to make friends, join groups, and be around people.
The most important people in your life, though, are the ones you live with.
Most of you will have a roommate or roommates throughout your years of college. For at least the first two years (unless you commute), you’ll be living on campus. For as long as you’re on campus, you’ll have a Resident Assistant (RA). These three components of campus life can shape your experience in interesting ways. Keep in mind: the people around you can make or break your college experience. Do all you can to ensure the former over the latter! Let’s break it down.
If you have a roommate, you probably already know about them. Maybe you’ve met them already! If not, send them an email, a Facebook message, whatever you need. The best way to start a good roommateship is by early and frequent contact. The more you talk to your roommate, the better off you will be once you move in together.
Some things to establish before moving in:
- Who brings what
- Lights out times (who wakes up earliest, who sleeps latest, what times these end up being)
- Bathroom etiquette (if a suite-style bathroom; get your suitemates in on it, too)
- Cleaning schedule
- Visitor policy (significant others, friends staying late, overnight visitors, etc.)
- Quirks, needs, and other miscellaneous info
Your RA will cover all of this in more detail with you, but here’s one thing to keep in mind: don’t be “fine with whatever.” I’ve had a few roommates over the years, and the best ones were the ones that sat down with me and honestly established what their expectations and needs were, then listened to what mine were. Once we got to that point, we compromised on certain items, put together a cleaning schedule (room and bathroom cleaning, swapped between the two of us intermittently), and lived happily ever after. The more upfront you are with your roommate, the better living with them will be.
You might not know what your needs are right away. Moving on-campus is weird, especially if you’ve never lived without parents before. You have new responsibilities, set your own bedtime, and get work done at your own pace. If you find you’re establishing patterns that you didn’t predict, talk to your roommate about making a new set of rules. Get the RA involved if you want to make it official, but hopefully you and your roommate get along to the point where you can just write it down and have it be law.
If you don’t get along with your roommate, let your RA know right away. The sooner they find out about it, the sooner they can monitor the situation and help you out if you need to move into a different room. You don’t have to stick with someone you’re not comfortable living with, but take advantage of the resources you have available to you instead of letting it build up to an unhealthy point.
Your residence hall is your new home. Congrats! It can be anywhere on campus with a number of different quirks, fancies, and difficulties. Each res hall has its own personality, depending on the crowd living there at the time. Most often, if you live in a big building like Virginia Hall, your neighbors will keep to themselves and form groups that may not be with the people they live among. If you live in a small building, like Madison Hall, you will likely get to know the people around you, if not by name then by face.
How you manage your neighborly ways is up to you! Maybe some of the people in your hall will become your best friends. Maybe they will be people you hope to never see again. Most likely, they will fall in the middle. If you want to get to know your neighbors, keep your door open! Someone might come by and chat if they see you’re available to them. Some of my favorite meeting-friends stories happened in the kitchen, when someone was baking something. If you’re a baker or a cook, you will get friends very quickly.
Hang around your common areas, too! Ask on Facebook or Twitter if anyone wants to join you in playing a game or watching a movie/show. Vice versa, if you’re looking to meet someone, check out your social media and see if anyone is offering to do some things. Don’t be afraid to wander and introduce yourself.
Some serious business: be courteous in your res hall. Respect quiet hours, don’t steal people’s food, and keep your trash orderly. Building a good community in your hall comes out of following those three simple rules. If you need something, ask for it. If you have a lot of trash, just take it to the dumpster. You have to be pretty loud to break quiet hours, so if you get a complaint, please take it seriously. Being kind will get you the best results in the world of coexisting.
Your RA is in an interesting position. They’re a student, like you, but they are also in a leadership role. Those in charge of orientation have probably told you that they’re one of the three people you can rely on while you’re at UMW – aside from your OL and Peer Mentor.
I’ll be honest: my first year on campus was weird because I barely saw my RA. I felt like I was on my own when I had problems, and when she did get involved, it was usually a mess. Of course, it wasn’t entirely her fault; she was a senior in an all-freshman dorm, so she didn’t end up spending too much time around her building. She was also just a generally busy person. One thing I learned from feeling that disconnect, though, was that I needed to make sure my future RAs knew who I was so that reaching out wouldn’t be so difficult. The next two years I lived on campus consisted of me getting to know my RAs right away and even befriending them to the point where they recognized me around campus.
Keep in mind your RAs are students first and RAs second. While it is their job to keep their residences in order and a comfortable space, they’re usually pretty laid back. They have their own stresses, homework, and jobs to do, but they won’t hesitate to lend you an ear if you need to talk. It doesn’t have to be a formal complaint; maybe you’re having a hard time in class and you want some advice or someone to vent to. They’re the most accessible mentor you have, so take advantage of their presence. They don’t have to be some ominous authority looming your halls. They’re pretty cool cats and full of good stories.
Again, leave a comment or send me a message if you have any questions! Living on campus can be hairy, but it can be super fun, too.
As always, I’m here for you first and foremost.