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Auntie SparkNotes: I Can't Trust My College Roommate

Auntie SparkNotes: I Can't Trust My College Roommate

Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I recently finished my first week of college and basically, I have a whole horde of questions I feel I'm a bit, shall we say, ill-equipped to handle.

I think I hate it here. I know what you're thinking: "But Sparkler, you've only been there a week!" and I realize this too. But my first night started with my roommate, a random girl I had not known before, bringing a man-friend home while I was asleep and my sitting through this experience in quiet misery because, well, I didn't have a clue what to do. I honestly do not care who she sleeps with, but the fact that she did that in front of me the first night makes me question how trustworthy, considerate, and respectful the person I have to share 20 square feet with for a year is.

I did talk to her about it and she vehemently apologized, but then violated our roommate agreement two separate nights after that, although in a minor way by coming home after our curfew set for weekdays. This whole week, I've felt I made a mistake in my college choice. It seems the people on this campus are, for the most part, not very friendly, and there's a ridiculous emphasis on partying that makes me uncomfortable since that's not really my scene. I miss my family like crazy - we are incredibly close and they are really the only people in the world I trust. While I certainly see plenty of positive aspects of this school too, this anxiety I feel at living with a person I don't know that I can trust is almost all-consuming.

So here are my questions, Auntie: Are my feelings being tainted by my first night experience here? Would I be better off switching to a single room for the year I have to be here? (I really can't afford to switch until then.) Would it be wrong for me to transfer next year? If not, is it a poor choice for me to choose a school that is less prestigious (I worked VERY hard in high school) so that I could still live with my family? Am I just being a scared little child about all of this?

And here are my answers, Sparkler. In order:

Probably; possibly; not necessarily; almost certainly; and… well, I have a policy against calling people "scared little children" when they're in obvious distress, so let's just say that you could probably benefit from a leetle bit more mature detachment when it comes to your roomie relationship.

Because yes, your roommate did a crappy, nasty thing by hooking up with someone while you were in the room. That was totally inconsiderate, and you were absolutely right to tell her how much it bothered you. But using the incident as justification for not only instigating a curfew (!), or considering a room reassignment, but fleeing college entirely so that you can go back and live with your parents? Wowie. That's, like, a bazillion times more reaction than the situation calls for.

Which brings me to this: there's a fine line between being savvy about the people you trust, and being a tinfoil hat-wearing scaredy-pants who (cue X-Files theme music) trusts no one. And the fact that you're making such a big deal about this incident—for which your roommate freely admitted fault and apologized, and which, distasteful though it was, is such a common occurrence on college campuses that it's practically a rite of passage—suggests to me that you're creeping toward tinfoil hat territory. I mean, you're ready to write your roommate off, after one week, over one isolated incident of non-awesomeness. That's awfully severe, and it might just explain not only your roommate-related tensions, but your difficulties at large with the campus social scene. Even in this brief letter, you come across as fairly prickly, guarded, suspicious, and fault-finding, and that's going to make it so very hard for even the loveliest, friendliest people to get to know you.

So, rather than room reassignments or transfer requests, please try this first: giving people the benefit of the doubt. Get to know your roommate, neighbors, classmates, and clubmates without being so on guard. Focus on finding the good in would-be friends, and make reasonable concessions for human imperfections (and please, keep your room agreement limited to the activities that actually affect your comfort and well-being in the room. Rules about overnight guests are fine, but enforcing a curfew on your roommate is way over the loony line).

And finally, do consider that when the only people in the world you can trust are your own immediate family, it's time to relax those standards to a point where other people, including good and decent people who would very much like to know you, have a hope of clearing them—somewhere in the happy medium above Credulous Idiocy but well below Mobster Crime Boss, CIA Informat, and Fox Mulder.

Because while it's certainly nice to have a roommate in whom you'd confide your darkest secrets, the truth is that having one you can trust to respect your space and your stuff, and to apologize when she messes up, is probably good enough.

Did you have a hard time adjusting to life at college? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at
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Topics: Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, college, advice, roommates, dorms

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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