Between attending classes, attending society events or even just adjusting to college life, you will probably need to spend time recharging back in your accommodation. For this reason, if you are living with other students, it’s essential to form good relationships with roommates early on.
This can be beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, making new friends in college can be a struggle. In your first few weeks you may find yourself spending more time in your accommodation as you find your feet. It might be a scary process, acclimating to this new environment without the support of friends or family from home. This is especially true if you are from a different part of the country. Fostering a good relationship with your flatmates will be a good start in building a college friend group and can make exploring this new environment a little less daunting. It also means a better home environment: from arranging the payment of utilities and household chores to holding social events such as parties or dinners in your accommodation will be much easier with a healthy line of communication. Friendship with flatmates can lead to local, national, and international connections, depending on where they come from.
Here are a few tips to help initiate this process.
Establish contact early
It’s important to start a dialogue as quickly as possible with your flatmate. While it may be tempting to stay in your room for the first few days, a lot can be accomplished by just leaving your door open. This signals that you are available for a chat at any time. If this approach is likely to cause anxiety try spending an afternoon or evening in the communal area and try to strike up conversation.
Depending on how often both of you are out during fresher’s week, the best course of action may be to schedule an hour to chat. This does not need to be formal; a cup of tea or a meal together can go a long way in building this relationship. In the online age, remember that building a connection doesn’t even need to be physical or in-person.
Try setting up a messenger or Whatsapp group to help maintain communication. This helps for checking when they will be in the flat to talk, if they’re free to go to an event with you, or for handling financial issues such as bills.
Spend some time together
Take the initiative to invite your flatmates out. A common bonding experience is having a drink together in the local student bar. But if you aren’t a drinker or dislike the noise of bars, there are other ways to hang out. Exploring the library as a fresher is more fun with a pack of people. Maybe go to a society event together. When lunchtime rolls around, remember those flatmates and Whatsapp the group to see who is about. Of course, it’s important to stress there is no pressure. Sometimes flatmates need their space, too. You never know if you may be living with other neurodivergent people, which leads neatly on to our next point.
Learn each other’s routines
If your flatmates study other courses, it’s likely they’ll have different lecture times. If one of you has early morning lectures, make sure to flag this early. You don’t want to wake up the whole house with your alarm! If you share a bathroom, try to find out what time people prefer to use the shower. Do they prefer to study a quiet space in the library or in a more busy environment like a café or the communal living area? Do they have a partner they’re likely to have over regularly and if so, when do they need their own space? It goes without saying, you should inform your flatmates about your own habits, stress triggers and who you’re likely to have over. This will help prevent tension further down the line.
Make the house a home
This is probably the most important part of living away from home. Keeping your accommodation in a presentable state makes a much calmer living environment but requires teamwork on you and your flatmates part. Keeping the flat clean from day one of freshers’ week sets the tone for the entire year. For your own room: Baskets and hangers are key tools to help with this. Baskets for socks, scarves, and dirty laundry stop piles of miscellaneous clothing from stinking the place up. Hangers are ideal for the smaller apartments that Dublin offers its college students. Hanging clothes will save drawer and floor space, which is particularly useful in shared rooms.
Basic kitchen cleaning from everyone is essential to avoid mess and arguments. Pans and plates need to be scrubbed and put away. Takeaway containers and bottles should be recycled or binned after use. Toilet paper should be regularly refilled and bleach should be used on surfaces. There should be regular hoovering to stop dust. Make sure to agree on a cleaning rota early with your flatmates. The last thing you want is ants or mice in your living space because someone didn’t clean up after themselves.
But making your living space a home isn’t all about cleaning up. Decoration is another, more fun aspect of making your accommodation liveable. If your flat is a pleasant space to be in, it is easier to find the motivation to keep it clean. Throw some nice cushions down on the couch, buy a plant for the window, or get some art pieces to put on the walls. This doesn’t need to be expensive. A trip to the charity shop with your flatmate to pick accessories can be another nice bonding experience.
Keep an open mind
College means meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds. It is likely you’ll be living with people from other parts of Ireland, or even other countries. They may be in a different course or have different hobbies to you. Try not to see this as a barrier; look at this as an opportunity to have a more social circle. They may even ask you to come with them to an event you would not normally attend. Remember that college is a time to step outside your comfort zone. Provided these activities won’t make you distressed or upset, you should have an open mind with these new experiences.
Niche college events are available to explore with friends, from society meetings, to pub gatherings, to informal study groups in the library. Should you choose to disclose your diagnosis, your flatmates may need to work on their awareness of autism. However, remember they may have their own unique needs that you need to understand. Thinking of your relationship as a two-way exchange of ideas is a good place to start.
You don’t need to be best friends.
Despite the benefits of a friendly relationship with flatmates, don’t be too disappointed if you don’t end up best friends with your them. The idea is to have a good, not necessarily great – and definitely not bad – roommate: someone you can live well with, who does not interfere with your studies. If you get a close friend out of it, consider it a bonus! But living pleasantly with your roommate and enjoying their company when you can is a great outcome in of itself.