This column appeared in the Fresh Start issue of the Collegian, sent to new Penn State students.
Rooming with someone can mean forming a closer relationship than marriage.
After all, how many married couples spend several hours in a cramped space every day? Few could stand that, but roommates must.
Some married couples grow more and more in love as time passes. Others turn resentful and divorce.
The same dynamics work in the apartments and dorms dotting Centre County.
Having learned from the best roommates and endured the worst, here are some realistic steps to make sure you can at least tolerate your new living situation.
Keep standards low
I place emphasis on the word "tolerate."
More likely than not, even if your landlord has assigned you to live with your best friend, hard times await.
We're all Penn State and we're all human. Your roommate may fall weeks behind on laundry, causing the room to smell like old feet. Such annoyances are too common because of the range in backgrounds new students come from.
The ultimate goal of rooming with someone should be to build a mutual understanding where each person meets his or her own responsibilities.
But, that doesn't mean putting up with a truly intolerable person. Speak with your RA or landlord if roommate drama becomes unmanageable and agree on the next logical step. Penn State' eLiving site also includes a direct room exchange option for students living on campus.
Establish duties early
As corny as it may sound, writing down a list of responsibilities and expectations on move-in day with your roommate will lessen frustration for an entire year. Agree upon cleaning duties, bed times, acceptable music volume levels and anything else that comes to mind.
If you choose not to do that, simple communication goes a long way. If your roommate does something you dislike, call him or her out on it immediately. If the issue stays unresolved, a simple pet peeve can turn into a grudge.
Leave the baggage at home
Believe it or not, you will cause about at least some of the problems in your living situation.
Curb bad or annoying habits out of reverence for the other person in the room. He or she is as reluctant as you to live with someone outside of the family tree.
Yes, it might be time to stop Skyping with your significant other constantly or spending all day in only boxers.
Find an escape
RAs, parents and others often default to a classic bit of advice for new students: "Keep your door open and introduce yourself to everyone." Heed that advice because it has more implications than staving off depression and loneliness.
You need a place to go other than your room for sanity's sake. Going to someone else's room and engaging in a conversation can ease "domestic" problems.
Here's the best-case roommate scenario: You make a new friend, perhaps the most valuable asset a person can take from college.
Bonding by going to the gym, eating at a local restaurant or playing video games can allow that to happen. Don't shut yourself off to a new experience if urged by your roommate.