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Building a Home Away From Home: An Exchange Student’s Guide to Living With a Roommate

I expected that moving to Boston College as an exchange student would be an experience riddled with culture shocks. When preparing to adapt to a completely new way of life, some looming cultural differences were obvious: different class routines, different foods, and different prices. But there were some cultural discrepancies that I could not anticipate or prepare for. And my biggest culture shock upon arriving at BC was the living situation. I attend the University of Bristol in England, where students have individual rooms with private bathrooms. My situation living on CoRo at BC is the complete opposite! But, I soon learned not all new and different things are terrible. So, here is some advice I would give anyone to help embrace the changes that come with sharing a space.

Make the First Move

Reach out to your roommate before you get to Boston if you can. Whether you contact them through their information on the Agora Portal or social media, knowing who you’re going to live with and putting a face to a name should hopefully relieve a lot of your preemptive anxiety. As an exchange student who had never travelled to Boston or the United States before, small gestures like this helped reduce the amount of “unknowns” I faced when moving here. By reaching out, you also get the opportunity to acquaint yourself with your roommate, establish a bit of a relationship beforehand, and discuss things you may—or may not—have in common. Establishing an early roommate connection adds to the number of familiar faces you’ll have on campus for the first few days of the semester, which tends to be very few for exchange students!

Be Open-Minded 

If living with a roommate is something you have never experienced before, it is extremely natural to have anxieties and concerns before you arrive—who wouldn’t? As hard as it may be to follow this advice, approaching this new situation with an open mindset is the best way to prepare yourself for any roommate dynamic. By going into this new chapter with specific expectations or requirements, you will only make your time at BC more difficult. If you expect your rooming situation to follow certain standards, you might get in a disagreement with your roommate—this could make your room a stressful environment that you can’t relax in. The likelihood of finding a roommate rhythm and routine that suits both of you is much higher if you approach conversations about sharing the space with an open mind.

Make Your Area Your Own 

Making your side of the room “your own” makes the space feel more like it’s yours, even though you are sharing it with someone else! Whether that means rearranging the layout of your room, putting up posters and photos, or bringing a cuddly toy from home, small additions can help you to settle in. For example, I am a huge fan of Jellycat stuffed animals, and some of mine hold sentimental value. These additions have made me feel like there is a piece of home here with me in Boston. My room is now a space that is personalized to my interests. It is somewhere I can decompress and relax rather than being a place I dread coming back to.

Don’t Forget Self-Care

Self-care is vital for anyone. And it’s been more important than ever for me as I’ve acclimated to life at BC. Sometimes you just need some time to yourself. Alone time can be difficult to get when you share a room. Personally, I’ve invested in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, so I can zone out a bit when I’m in the room. You can use them to play music, call friends or family, put on a Netflix show, or even just have some quiet time to yourself. For times when you want to get out of the room, taking a walk around the Res is the perfect escape. It allows you to have peace and quiet while also getting your steps in and observing nature. Going for a walk around campus or stopping by the Plex are also great ways to get a breather and spend some time alone—whatever suits your routine best! 

October 3, 2023