If you’re heading back to your college campus for the upcoming semester, you’ve probably been thinking about how different life will be when living with roommates. While each living situation is unique, it is important to consider and discuss with future suitemates how to best accommodate one another. Whether you’re staying in a dorm or have opted to live off-campus, sharing a personal living space with others will require trust, communication and plenty of disinfectant wipes. Here are five tips for navigating life with roommates in this upcoming semester.
1. Communicate openly with your roommates.
The best advice I can give anyone is not to be afraid to reach out to roommates and voice your concerns. If throughout the semester you plan on visiting an at-risk family member, it might be best to let your suitemates know that bringing COVID-19 back home would have dire consequences. Further, if you are immunocompromised, it is imperative that you tell your roommates and work together to find ways in which you can all be conscious of each other’s health. These conversations should not be a list of demands or orders that each suitemate is forced to follow, but rather an open discussion about what schedules can be made and what each roommate can do to keep each other safe.
Communicating early about expectations could help roommates be better matched with others who share their same level of concern. Without open communication, it will be nearly impossible to create a safe and healthy living environment.
2. Set boundaries and devise a schedule.
When you picture the quintessential college experience, it probably involves football games, lecture halls and house parties. In a time when COVID-19 cases have reached an all-time high, these activities are going to look a lot different. Since many universities are switching to remote learning, and football games have most likely been put on hold, should house parties still take place? While it might not be wise to cram 20 or 30 college students in a house, making the call is up to those sharing the space. It is important to discuss with suitemates about how many friends can be invited over and where the group will spend their time.
According to CDC guidelines, it is advised that no more than 10 individuals gather in one space at a time. It could be helpful to set aside “visiting hours” where small groups can gather in common areas and concerned roommates can stay in their rooms. At the very least, letting roommates know when you plan to have company is a respectful thing to do. Shared kitchens and laundry rooms also pose a problem for those wishing to avoid close contact with others. Creating a schedule that delegates times and days for everyone to cook or wash clothes might be the best way to navigate the situation.
3. Keep cleaning products, sanitizer and gloves accessible.
To ensure that each individual living in an apartment or dorm room is protecting themselves and others, have cleaning supplies readily available. It would be a good idea to keep bottles of hand sanitizer, wipes, disinfectant spray and gloves under the kitchen sink for any of the roommates to use. Whether each roommate chips in a few dollars a month for supplies or only one person buys it, having these items on hand will surely make individuals feel more comfortable sharing the fridge, stove and pantry with others.
Just keeping the sanitizing solutions on hand is not enough, so all roommates should make frequent use of them. This could mean wearing gloves when reaching for ice, wiping down handles and stovetops after using them and applying hand sanitizer before and after opening the front door. Ensure that each roommate understands these hygienic practices and sticks to them. If you see a roommate disregarding these guidelines, politely asking them once or twice should be the next move. However, if the problem persists, it might be necessary to call a “family meeting” and reiterate your concerns.
4. Reach out to your leasing office or RA for guidance.
If you’re having trouble agreeing with your suitemates or just want more information about other ways you can protect yourself, contacting those in charge of your living arrangement could be helpful. Apartment complexes and dorm hall advisors might have cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks available for residents to use. Leasing offices and resident assistants will also be well-equipped with suggestions and can hopefully persuade petulant roommates to take safety measures seriously. While it might be impossible to convince every college student to quarantine and wear a mask in public, universities are taking the pandemic very seriously. Some schools across the country are even threatening expulsion for students who refuse to adhere to CDC requirements and act carelessly in shared spaces.
5. Respect the space and health of others.
While it is unlikely that students will be forced to stay inside and limit contact with others, it is important that each person keeps in mind the health and well-being of those around them. In some respects, it is almost unfair to ask roommates to limit their visitors or wear a mask in the comfort of their home. However, if an individual is at a higher risk of being infected with the virus, it is advisable that they take precautions into their own hands. This means wiping down surfaces before they touch them, wearing a mask in a common area and staying inside their bedroom when friends are over. Whether these guidelines seem paranoid or not, it is ultimately safer to be cautious than careless.
Amid the craziness of the pandemic, many people have learned what it takes to be a good person and act selflessly. Foregoing planned trips, ordering takeout instead of dining in a restaurant and wearing a mask for hours on end are just a few of the ways people are looking out for one another. By extending this kindness into shared living quarters and having a mutual respect for your roommates, it will be possible to create a clean and safe living space in the upcoming semester.