Dear Harlan: I recently escaped a really awful roommate experience. She and I were randomly assigned. At first it looked like we might get along. However, that idea was gone barely a month after we had been living together. She would refuse to lock the door and had several rules for me that she would not follow if it was inconvenient for her. She took up more than half of the dorm with her things and would not loft the bed so she could store things under it. I even walked in on her talking about me and telling stories to all of my hall mates about what a horrible roommate I was. I brought up these issues several times, but she refused to try to compromise, and I never felt comfortable in my room. I was so uncomfortable that I would shake with anxiety at even the thought of speaking to her and would, on occasion, cry at the thought of having to return to my room at night. I tried speaking with my RA, and she always took my roommate’s side. I understand that this sort of thing likely won’t occur again, but now that I am in a new situation, I want to make sure that something like that doesn’t happen with my new roommate. I don’t expect us to be BFFs or even friends, but I would appreciate any advice you could give me.
— Still Shaking
Dear Still Shaking: Expect nothing. Plan for everything. Bad roommates happen. You are going to come across miserable people who don’t want to get along with you. It’s just hard when you have to share a room with one of these people. Start this new relationship with few expectations. Friendship isn’t required. You just have to want to get along and agree to share what makes either of you uncomfortable. Beyond that, make sure you have people in your corner who can support you. If for any reason something goes wrong, turn to these people. The list should include your residence life staff, a therapist in the counseling center, a teacher, a spiritual leader, friends outside of your room and anyone else who will be in your corner. Expect nothing. Plan for everything.