Four Corners: Confronting Roommate Problems

Michelle Bui: Today we want to hear about a couple of the problems that you’ve encountered with roommates. UCI tries to make finding roommates easier by giving prospective students roommate surveys, but of course everyone’s response to those are, “Oh, I’m lovely and I want someone lovely, too!” How has the system worked out for you, how do you think UCI can work on fixing any potential problems with it, and what do you think individuals can do to be good roommates or somehow pick better roommates?

Ashley Duong: I think the main lesson I learned from having roommate troubles is it’s really important to set boundaries early on so that it’s not halfway through the quarter and you’re like, “Yeah, I really don’t like it when you make out on my bed.” When setting rules early on, you shouldn’t feel compelled to be super nice. Set a hard line, acknowledge it, and make sure your roommate doesn’t cross it, otherwise it’ll just lead to more awkward stuff later on.

Lydia Xie: I agree. In my situation, as a first year, everyone is still trying to get to know each other and everyone has a nice face on, but it really benefits you to try and get a better idea of who your roommate is and find out if you’re compatible. For me, I assumed we’d be compatible but we really weren’t. For the whole setting of boundaries, I think that communication is important to make sure people are being genuine. My last roommate said that she was a really clean person but she ended up being really messy and I, personally, am really neat, so that was a big problem. Also, try to stand up for yourself, because if you’re a pushover it’ll just lead to more problems.

Isaac Espinosa: I think there’s a weird problem there, because I tried to set boundaries in my roommate situation but it sucks when people just don’t do what you ask them to. There comes a point where you tell someone to do something so many times, they don’t do it, and it’s like, well what’s the point of asking anymore if you’re just gonna blow it off every time. I think that’s a big problem with the questionnaires that we get from housing, because people will request clean roommates and just get the complete opposite of that. At that point the surveys are not really helping anyone, and you wonder, do the questionnaires even matter?

AD: I think the problem with the questionnaires is that no one wants to think that they’re messy. Everyone’s like, “Oh, I’m clean!” But that’s where questionnaires fail because I think people think of it as a dating profile. You want a good roommate, you’re gonna make yourself look good. I think people need to step back and think about who they are in terms of cleanliness and what time they go to sleep. You really have to be honest with yourself, that way everyone involved can have the best experience.

MB: I actually had a special circumstance where I lived with my best friend. Everyone says you shouldn’t do that because you end up fighting with your best friend and it never works out, but we were like, ‘No, we’ll make it work, we’ve been on a camping trip together where we’ve shared a room.’ We thought we could work it out. When we first started rooming we didn’t set any ground rules and I was more or less a pushover. Little things came up that I didn’t foresee and we didn’t really talk about them. I didn’t anticipate that she would sleep much later than I did or that I would wake up much earlier than her, and we didn’t even think that would be issue. At the end of the day it was pretty great. But with the questionnaires and setting boundaries, how do you set boundaries for problems that you can’t even think of as an incoming freshman?

LX: I think one of the things that should be included in the questionnaire is how important academics are to you, and how you study. For my roommate and I, we differed a lot in that. I liked to study in my room or at a library and she preferred studying on her bed. She liked to do “lazy studying” whereas I would like to be focused, so if I was sleeping or something our schedules would differ. I think the difference between roommates and friends is important, because if you need a random person as a roommate and eventually become friends, it becomes complicated to bring things up because you might hurt their feelings, but you kind of don’t want. With someone who’s primarily a roommate, not a friend, you can better stand up for yourself.

IE: I think it’s hard when you’re not friends with your roommate. I’ve had good relationships with mine, but I have friends who haven’t really known theirs as well and aren’t sure how they’d react to being told, “You’re kind of slobby.” You don’t want to put your stuff at risk because you don’t know if they’ll retaliate to what you say.

AD: It goes back to the whole communication thing because, hopefully, if you’re living with someone for a long period of time, you’ll get a nice relationship out of it. But you can’t guarantee that. So it’s tough, dealing with someone you’re living with but also being scared that they’ll set your clothes on fire if you piss them off.

IE: Or put some Nair in your shampoo…

AD: I know! It’s hard but I think you need to be able to talk to each other and know how to solve things.

Michelle Bui is the associate opinion editor.

Ashley Duong is a copy editor

Lydia Xie is a copy intern.

Isaac Espinosa is an opinion intern.