A foolproof guide.
As a freshman, Housing Day reminded me of Christmas. The night before and in the early morning, I was so excited to see what fate held in store for me that I couldn’t sleep. For the first time in my whole, albeit short, college career, I got up long before the crack of dawn, anxiously awaiting the dorm stormers much like I used to Santa Claus.
The weeks leading up to Housing Day, much like those leading up to Christmas, were not quite as exciting. “Stressful” is a word I would use instead. Housing Day’s version of the family drama that usually accompanies the holidays is blocking drama. Which I guess, in a way, could be considered family drama, since these are the people you’ll be living with for the next three years – your family away from your family.
Luckily, the week before Housing Day marks the end of blocking drama. You only have the good stuff—river run, finally finding out where you’ll live for the next three years, attending stein club in your new house— ahead of you. Some people are even lucky enough to not experience any blocking drama whatsoever. “We’re all best friends”, they’ll say with a casual shrug of their shoulders. “The choice was easy.”
Oftentimes though, if you and your blockmates make it through the blocking process unscathed, rooming is when the drama begins.
This happens for several reasons. When forming blocking groups, freshmen tend to pick people with whom they are good friends, not necessarily good roommates. Whether someone is on a similar sleep schedule to you, or if he/she is clean or messy, is not important for sustaining a friendship, but most certainly is for sustaining a harmonious living experience. Another reason is that housing in general is a time when many people are selfish. This selfishness is understandable, though; where and with whom you live has a huge impact on your Harvard experience as a whole. However, friendships are a two-way street, and selfishness can certainly drive a wedge into a friendship, creating hostility in the room and the blocking group as a whole.
To help your blocking group avoid rooming drama, here are some foolproof tips:
- Set a time and a place that is convenient to your entire blocking group to discuss rooming. Ideally, this meeting will not be at a time when everyone is on the strugglebus with papers and midterms. The goal is to minimize stress when having this conversation. The more stress there is, the more irritable everyone will be. Also, the whole blocking group should be in attendance so that everyone can vouch for him or herself. Make sure you are at this meeting to protect your interests. If this sounds like an “every man for himself” kind of situation, that’s because it is!
- Before said meeting, make a list prioritizing the aspects of rooming that are most important to you. Do you simply HAVE to have a single, for at least a portion of the year? Would you be okay living in the common room if it meant everyone could have a single for the whole year? Do you care if your roommate is a little messy? Do you want to host a lot of pregames and parties in your room? Do you value having roommates who are on the same sleep schedule as you? Are you and another member of your blocking group a package deal? These are all things to consider. Think about the things that you need out of your housing experience in order to maintain your sanity, but also figure out what you would be willing to give up to get those things. Which brings me to my next point…
- During the meeting, be prepared to compromise. It is highly unlikely that you are going to get exactly what you want, so do not expect that you will. Pick your battles! The fewer battles, the less drama.
- Pick your roommates based on your rooming compatibility, not your compatibility as friends. My wise PAF warned me of this back when I was a freshman, and I wish I had heeded her advice. Sophomore year, I lived with one of my best friends at Harvard. Unfortunately, we were terrible roommates. While I went to bed at 11pm and got up at 7am, she went to bed at 3am and woke up at 10am. We were always waking each other up, resulting in cranky, sleep-deprived interactions that resulted in conflict. This year, we both elected to live with different members of our blocking group who had more similar sleep schedules and living habits to our own, and we are better friends because of it.
- Once you have established your rooming groups, establish rules for the entire room. Do you care if your roommates have late-night guests? How long is too long before you take out the trash? What happens if one roommate drunk-eats another roommate’s food? These are all important questions. Make sure everyone in your room knows the answers!
- If you have a problem with a roommate, talk to them about it. Don’t allow your negative feelings to build up. Pent-up anger + the straw that broke the camel’s back = huge blowout. If one of your roommates is doing something that frustrates you, have a mature conversation about it.
- If your rooming situation is not working out, do something about it. A junior in Currier House recounts how despite having multiple conversations with her roommate about their issues, rooming with her was simply not working out. “We tried to be open about issues, and said that we preferred to know when something was bothering the other rather than someone bottling it up, but it didn’t work. We had a couple conversations to try to talk things out, but were never successful.” After talking to her tutor, this junior transferred to another house, where she now lives with more compatible roommates. Don’t waste time being miserable.
Caroline Gentile ’17 followed these tips and lived happily ever after with her block mates in Kirkland House.