Comrades or conflict: The trials of living with a roommate


Collegian | Chloe Leline

Ivy Secrest, Life and Culture Director

College roommates are often make-or-break relationships. Some will remain friends for a lifetime, and others will manage to hate each other in one week and never speak again.

For many students, moving into college is highly anticipated. Move-in week across the country is so busy that signs line the highway warning drivers of increased traffic, and most upperclassmen avoid driving to campus until things settle down.


After the long trek to Colorado State University and the awkward process of families and roommates meeting, it’s hard to imagine that for many students, the chaos has just begun.

Darion Regalado, a resident assistant at CSU, said most roommates will eventually have some kind of conflict. Often, the things students think will make living with someone easier actually cause more problems, such as living with friends.

“It’s kind of hard to keep the same best friend relationship when you live with that person,” Regalado said.

Especially in the dorms where living quarters are tight and there’s very little personal space, it’s important to live with compatible personalities.

“If you’re planning on being super cleanly and not having people over and you end up living with somebody who always wants to have friends over (and) doesn’t really keep the room clean, … that definitely becomes an issue,” Regalado said.

Random roommates can present issues as well. Kaleb Zimmer, a sophomore chemical and biological engineering major at CSU, said when he had random roommates last semester, he encountered several issues primarily consisting of cleanliness, following through and respect for boundaries.

Zimmer said issues of taking out the trash and eating bigger food items, like chicken, without permission were constant sources of conflict.

In one instance, a roommate of Zimmer’s got too drunk and threw up in a bathroom that Zimmer shared with a third roommate. They didn’t clean it up, causing it to harden. This was the point at which Zimmer decided to move.

Tensions like this can put a strain on the academic and social lives of students. Zimmer avoided using common areas and his apartment in general, preferring not to interact with his roommates.


“I wish we were able to talk things out, but after the puke incident, I was like, ‘I just cannot live with you guys. Like, this is my home. … It’s like this is my safe space, and it’s being attacked,'” Zimmer said.

Regalado said that often when frustrations occur, roommates aren’t talking to each other. They think if they bring it up, they’ll make the other person angry or make the situation worse.

“I always tell my residents at the beginning of the year that when they are having issues with their roommate to talk to them first,” Regalado said.

Regalado recommended roommates in the dorms sign a roommate agreement to set boundaries early on. It gives residents a framework for living together.

Ideally, this allows residents to navigate standards for cleanliness and differences in belief systems and sets a standard for communicating in the future. Once students move off campus, like Zimmer, those boundary-setting and conflict-resolution solutions become much more self-motivated.

“The biggest thing I had to tell myself is that my anger is justified,” Zimmer said. “I’m allowed to be upset about this, and ultimately, I need to say something because otherwise, people will continue to walk all over me.”

According to Zimmer, having roommates reveals to you your personal boundaries. For example, he knows he cannot live with messy people or people who frequently use substances. For others, this may not be a concern.

Zimmer said he wouldn’t do a randomized roommate situation again unless it was only one roommate. Currently living with some friends, Zimmer has found a much more harmonious living environment and believes some friends can live together well.

“It depends on the friend because my best friend, her and I are very different, but our friendship is very strong,” Zimmer said. “And we know that we wouldn’t be able to live together.”

Learning to manage conflict and live with others is an essential life skill. College roommates can teach you these skills without damaging your community, your health or your academics if communication and boundaries are strong.

These conflicts are rarely one-sided. Zimmer said that looking back, there were definitely times when he could have reacted in a better way.

“Acknowledge that you will have to make sacrifices living with other people,” Zimmer said. “It’s not always going to go your way. If you want everything to go your way all the time, get a one-bedroom apartment.”

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