Starting College, Roommates, and Italian for Dinner

Before me is a white plate cradling little pockets of ravioli with a layer of parmesan, like snow dusted on top. The green of the sage just barely peeps through. My mouth waters and I look over to my friend Leslie whose face must mirror my own. Her plate of pasta speckled with pepper and pecorino beams up at her, same as mine does at me. “SO worth the wait,” she says. We dig in. 

Ravioli Burro e Salvia from I Sodi.

Months prior to this, Leslie and I met in our History of the Universe class. I noticed one of the girls I was waiting outside the classroom door with was wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt. I thought to myself, This girl is cool, I’m going to make sure to sit next to her. And thanks to our professor who loved to assign group work, we ended up working together because we were seated next to each other. Only about a month into the semester, I was waiting for the elevator in my residence hall when I bumped into Leslie taking out the trash one day. We both started apologizing profusely for the run-in before we realized who the other person was. “Wait, you live on this floor?” I asked, and she nodded. It turned out she lived just a few doors down from me (and it also turned out that this would be a huge blessing for me during my freshman year).

The more time passed, the more uncomfortable I got with my living situation. As Leslie and I got closer, I would spend more and more time in her dorm studying or just hanging out until I absolutely had to go to sleep, or she or her roommate did. Many times I would show up to class and she’d ask for updates on how it was going over in my dorm. I’d sigh and update her because there was always something to tell.

The issue? My roommate.

Or maybe it was me. Likely, it was both of us. The strangest part of it all was that when we were texting over the summer before the semester started, we got along really well. I actually had very high hopes for the school year and was thrilled that I was roomed with someone who was so friendly and who had all the same preferences I did on the housing application. So when things started to go south, I did my best to smile through the pain. She missed a week of cleaning? It’s okay, I’m not always good about remembering either. She had her boyfriend over and they were being too loud? That’s fine, I can handle it. He’s sleeping over now? It’s okay. I’m fine. He’s here again? Okay. Maybe it’s just a few days in a row. It will stop. Wait, he’s here again

Truthfully, it got worse. The amount of time it would take to tell every incident, to detail what life in the dorm was like, would be immense. There was yelling, a lot of it, then the strained moments in which we tried to compromise, then ultimately silence that was not just awkward, but filled with tension. We were definitely both at fault. I was used to my living situation at home, where I could be left alone in peace and quiet, and she was used to being able to have people over whenever she wanted. There were times we lost our tempers with each other, but we also tried to be civil with each other the following day. Countless discussions about what we could do to make the other feel more comfortable often came to nothing, and we even went to our RA for guidance at one point. At the end of the day, whether we had come to an agreement or not, we were left unhappy.

Since then, I’ve chalked it up to us being victims of circumstance. I am almost certain that if we hadn’t had to live together we would have been friends. We were just highly incompatible when it came to our ways of living. And unfortunately, it got to the point I’d do anything to be out of my dorm. 

“I know what we can do,” Leslie said one day as we lounged on her bed. Her eyes had lit up all of a sudden as we watched a movie on her laptop in the dark. We’d been dying for a break in routine lately and she knew I needed something to take my mind off of my living situation. “I Sodi,” she said excitedly.

I blinked. “What’s that?”

“I Sodi. It’s a super fancy Italian restaurant. You have to make a reservation, like, months in advance to eat there. But after our History of the Universe final, we should go there to celebrate!”

So we made the reservation (two months in advance) and saved the little money our parents sent us to be able to have a fulfilling experience come December. When the day finally came we threw on our nicest looking sweaters and coats and braved the cold wind, walking the streets of New York to finally arrive at the steps of I Sodi. And yes, it was worth it. Of course, it was nice to be out of the dorm, but it was also one of the few times that semester I genuinely enjoyed being in New York. We still felt out of place sitting amongst people who certainly looked like they didn’t have to save money to eat there, but the meal has lived on in our memories as one of the best New York has gifted us thus far since living there. Worries fell away, the food melted in our mouths, and I could forget about what awaited me back at the dorm.

I Sodi in New York City.

But many times when I look back on my freshman year, especially that first semester, I wish I’d done better. What if there was something I could have done to make my situation more tolerable not just for me, but for my roommate?

Here are some steps you can take to try to improve your relationship with your roommate:

  • Take a Breath – Maybe you are like me and you get overwhelmed by what is bothering you and want to fix it immediately. There were times I know I was a little too quick to get on my roommate for something when I should have calmed down first thing. So breathe. Sometimes it’s a case of having to choose your battles. If you think you can handle it, try to do so, especially if there is more than just one issue at hand. 
  • Talk to Them – Can’t take it anymore? Sometimes you have to start that awkward conversation. Make sure you know what you’re going to say first and make sure you have a positive attitude before you talk to your roommate. They will likely hear you out and try to fix the situation if you are nice about it. In other words, don’t be my roommate or me who many times just snapped at each other. 
  • Give Them a Chance – College is overwhelming. It doesn’t take long to realize that. So it is likely your roommate may forget (again? Yes, again! It’s okay, take another breath) that it’s their turn to clean, or that they promised they would take out the trash. Give them at least a week before you bring it up again. It can take a while to implement something into your routine.
  • Talk to Your RA – If you are still having issues, do not be shy to knock at your Residential Assistant’s door. They will more than likely smooth over the situation and will be a neutral voice that you can count on to help you and your roommate reach a true compromise. 
  • Take it Easy – It’s possible more issues will arise, likely a few of the same ones. I made the mistake my freshman year of getting too hung up on these things, of letting them eat away at me to the point I couldn’t enjoy my time in New York. Do your best to shrug these things off. Do things that you enjoy to take your mind off it. You cannot control your roommate, but you can take care of yourself. 

And if all that doesn’t work? Find your Leslie and your I Sodi and plan something amazing that you can look forward to. Spoil yourself. Do it. You need it. 

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By: Anaïs Nuñez-Tovar

Anaïs is currently a Junior at New York University and is majoring in English with a minor in Creative Writing. Her goal for the future is to work in the publishing industry and write on the side. She loves to write and read poetry and fiction in her spare time.

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