Surviving college roommates

All over the country, college freshmen are heading off to begin a new chapter in their lives. Orientation sessions will explain the nifty features and services on campus that should enhance the pursuit of higher education. But there's one crucial element of university life that is often glossed over or never even mentioned in the handbooks and welcome packets. It is a human element that is difficult to predict or plan for. It's called "the roommate."

Here is a quick guide to help all dorm residents negotiate that tricky adjustment phase and establish a system of peaceful coexistence.

1. Your roommate may be nervous or uneasy in his/her new surroundings. Avoid making sudden loud noises or quick movements for a few days after meeting your roommate, as these actions may cause further anxiety and inhibit the development of a cordial relationship.

2. Some roommates sleep a great deal during the first week of school. Don't be alarmed if your roommate stays in bed for extended periods. Make sure he or she is always covered by a warm blanket and is not positioned near a drafty spot. If the roommate wakes up and says, "Can you get me a pizza?" or makes other simple requests, seize the opportunity to display your cooperative skills, or offer useful alternatives. Confrontational responses such as, "Get your own pizza!" won't help.

3. As much as possible, try to keep your roommate clean and reasonably well groomed. Some roommates may think it's normal to wear the same clothes for days, or even weeks. If this problem occurs, suggest a fun outing to the laundromat so your roommate can see how a washing machine and detergent work together to create a more hygienic lifestyle.

4. Many roommates have a nesting urge. They will accumulate wads of candy wrappers, tissue paper, and other bits of detritus as a way of establishing personal territory. Keep old bread crusts, grapefruit rinds, and other organic material of the mix to avoid odor problems and prevent insect infestations.

5. Be prepared for your roommate to emit strange sounds or punctuate all sentences with annoying phrases such as "Schmock, schmock!" or "He shoots, he scores!" Hopefully this habit will fade as your roommate matures. If not, do the best you can.

6. Sometimes roommates will disappear on weekends. Do not take it personally. It's possible the roommate has a powerful homing instinct. If it turns out your roommate's parents own a condo on the beach at Malibu or an estate in the Hamptons, your prospects for some future fun could be most excellent.

There is a popular saying that everything you need to know in life is what you learned in kindergarten. This is completely false. Many important lessons will be learned from sharing space with a complete stranger. Your room is a daily life laboratory in the College of Humanity. Study hard, and take good notes!

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