Art by Ally Armstrong
When human beings with different traits and qualities come together under one roof, contrasting personalities can clash or compliment each other.
But one thing is clear — living with a roommate is a major learning experience for all involved.
“Make sure you pick people you know and trust,” Communication Professor Kenneth Waters said. “Know how to communicate so you minimize misunderstandings.”
Waters said he experienced some struggles during his undergrad at Pepperdine with roommates — some of whom did not keep up their end of the chores, leaving the responsibility all to himself.
“What I remember most is that one of the guys just decided he didn’t like school,” Waters said. “He just slept in and didn’t go and moved out a month later.”
There are different factors that contribute to how a person acts when living with others. These include the context of the connection between roommates — partner, friend or stranger — and how an individual was raised to take care of themselves and treat others.
Learning to live with others in college
Maddie Blume, a 2018 alumna, grew up as an only child. She said the transition from living by herself to living with others in college enhanced her communication skills.
“There wasn’t one time when I felt like I didn’t get along with my roommates or feel like I didn’t have enough space,” Blume said.
Blume said she believes she had a positive roommate experience at Pepperdine because she lived with people who held similar values and social preferences.
Senior Sergio Velazquez was a residential advisor in the J. Pengilly House during the 2019-2020 academic year until COVID-19 prompted campus to close. He helped to foster a new home to 50 male first-year students.
“The first year of college, they’re learning how to be more of an adult,” Velazquez said. “They’ll get more comfortable with sharing what’s going on in their lives and be more communicative, open and vulnerable.”
In most cases, Velazquez said the students accept each other as living partners and keep the relationship at that. In rare cases, a pair of roommates will end up becoming best friends.
Learning to live with a best friend
Seniors Madison Menefee and Annie Vander Mey have been inseparable since sophomore year when they lived in Seaside Hall with six other suitemates.
“Our core values are the same, like being Christians [and] loving God, and we have the same friend group, which helps a lot,” Menefee said. “We’ve been able to live well together because we have that mutual understanding.”
Menefee and Vander Mey both grew up without any siblings, which is why the women said that living with another person — aside from their parents — has taught them to be more self–aware. Vander Mey said living with someone else helped push her out of her comfort zone.
“It wasn’t hard for me to learn how to live with other people, but it was difficult getting used to [living with someone else],” Vander Mey said.
Menefee said she learned she never wants to live alone after returning home during the COVID-19 campus shutdown.
Living with friends, however, has not proven to be a positive experience for everyone, including senior Ooreoluwa Okediji.
“After I lived with other people, I realized it wasn’t my favorite thing and unfortunately, it kind of made me afraid to live with my friends,” Okediji said.
Her personality and study habits have made living with roommates a difficult experience. Okediji said she prefers living alone because she has her own space — especially as a night owl and an introvert. If Okediji had to live with anyone, she would prefer to live with a stranger over a friend in order to protect their friendship.
Learning to live with a loved one
Waters has been married for 36 years and said living with a partner is more intimate than living with a roommate because a couple is together more often.
“You should have the same kinds of deeply spiritual conversations in a roommate situation that you would have in a marriage,” Waters said. “But when you’re married, there’s a commitment to an intimacy and a transparency that’s certainly not present in a roommate situation.”
Waters said someone’s way of living with another person defaults to what they observed in their family growing up: an example being if they only saw their father take out the trash and only their mother do the dishes, then children will bring these assumptions into their adulthood understanding of who is responsible for certain tasks.
“All those kinds of things are really, really practical, but also cause a lot of friction,” Waters said.
Living with a sibling
“Sibling relationships are one of the most significant child-rearing challenges parents face,” Mark E. Feinberg, Anna R. Solmeyer and Susan H. McHale wrote in a psychology study in the journal “Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review.” Hierarchal dynamics and intense sibling ties contribute to this. However, “close, supportive sibling relationships may promote the qualities and skills needed for successful friend and romantic relationships.”
Senior Jonathan Palau grew up sharing a room with his brother and now lives in a house with his fraternity brothers. When he first got a roommate his freshman year, the experience wasn’t very different from home.
“I haven’t really lived alone,” Palau said. “If I did that, I feel like I would learn a lot about myself.”
When Palau shared a room with his brother, he said he was never lonely because he always had someone to talk to. However, living with his sibling came with some pet peeves.
Okediji and her sister grew up as night-owls who shared a room. When Okediji moved back home due to COVID-19, she said she was used to having her own space, which made sharing a room difficult to the point where she slept on the couch some nights.
Across all living situations, communication is the most important part of sharing a living space when two (or more) people come together in an environment.
Contact Sofia Longo via Twitter: @sofialongo_ or by email: email@example.com