Is privacy achievable on campus?

By Laura Hancq
September 8, 2010

While freshmen come to college with many concerns, the most prominent is usually the living situation. The challenges of learning how to live away from home and adjusting to living with a roommate can be some of the hardest of a college career.

Trying to have privacy while living with a complete stranger can be almost impossible. To achieve that privacy requires patience and communication.

“At college you definitely need more patience,” Heather Hammitt, freshman, undecided, said. “Sometimes it is hard to have privacy, but you can always just walk out of the room and go somewhere else.”

Freshmen who have made friends in their residence halls seem to have an easier time with privacy because just as Hammitt said, they can escape to a different room or work out agreements with other residents.

This may work well for some, but for students who may not know many other residents, this is not really a viable option. These freshmen have to turn to the old-fashioned way of communication, patience, and time management.

“I have an advantage because I have two sisters at home, so I’m used to living and sharing with others,” Liz Mann, freshman, pre-nursing, said. “It can be more difficult for people who always had their own space at home, but you just have to figure out when you can have your own time.”

Laura Shapella, the assistant director of housing operations, encourages freshmen to be very specific in their roommate agreements and to honor them.

“I think that many first year students come from a situation of having their own rooms growing up, so having to share a room with a stranger can be a very overwhelming concept,” Shapella said. “I think it is crucial for each person to be honest with their roommate about what they need in terms of privacy, and really work together to find a compromise that works for everyone. That is why the roommate agreement is so important.”

“My roommate went to boarding school, so it’s a really good situation because he already knew how to be a roommate,” Augie Halr, freshman, graphic design, said. “You need patience in the living situation by learning how to talk about things instead of fighting about them.”

Talking is clearly the first step to a good relationship. However, if the one-on-one talking is not enough, and if a fight is on the horizon, there is help available.

“Usually we encourage students to try and work things out with their roommate,” Shapella said. “Our hall staff is trained to help mediate roommate problems and find ways to help struggling roommates get along.”

Dominic DiFilippo, freshman, graphic design, said, “Privacy and patience aren’t really that difficult. I think a lot of situations arise purely because of personality issues. If that’s the case then just don’t always be with your roommate.”

Freshmen seem to be in agreement that finding your own time will truly make the difference. Even if you are best friends with your roommate, it is healthy to take time for yourself. Examine your schedule and figure out when you can have time to do the things that you need to do, as well as time to relax.

“In college you have to live with others, it’s just a fact,” Don Irons, freshman, graphic design, said. “If you are having problems with it just don’t be so uptight. Have fun with your roommate and things will fall into place.”

Being friends with your roommate is a great start. It can take the awkwardness out of the whole situation, and can make you more likely to want to work out issues.

“I’ve known my roommate for a while before college,” Dana Anderson, freshman, pre-pharmacy, said. “Because we are friends, we can talk really easily to each other. Just like in a friendship, we know we have to compromise as roommates.”

However, it is important to realize that while friendship may make the situation easier, it is not the only key to having a peaceful experience.

“I think that there are fewer roommate issues from upperclassmen because people can choose their roommates, but they definitely still occur,” Shapella said. “Just because two people are good friends, doesn’t mean they will be compatible roommates. We encourage students to talk to their potential roommates about what they want from their living situation to determine if they will get along as roommates.”

Don’t assume that your friend or roommate already knows exactly what you need. If you need more privacy, ask for it. Have patience with the answer, and be willing to compromise to achieve what you want. The best way to make a good situation is by treating your roommate with respect, and that means honest and open communication.

Rudy Bisram, freshman, undecided, said, “Just make sure to set guidelines and talk things out. As long as you and your roommate have nothing to hide from each other, there won’t be any issues.”

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Laura Hancq

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