Only Child Syndrome: College Dorm Edition
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Student Life

Only Child Syndrome: College Dorm Edition

Going from private to public overnight.

Only Child Syndrome: College Dorm Edition

Alone at last. No more random laughter or excited screeches echoing down the halls at strange hours. No more unannounced visitors appearing to interrupt my afternoon naps. No more inconvenient crowds of females in the bathroom when you’re in a rush to look like a human for your morning class.

After two semesters of that madness, I finally had something back I took for granted for about 18 years: privacy. College means community, and with that community comes a hoard of extended family and plenty of new acquaintances who might not value privacy and personal space as much as you. It took me a while to adjust, but I'm glad I did.

Here's a list of six things I learned as an only child in a college dorm, along with some advice for the conflicts you might encounter:

1. Sharing food isn't just sharing food.

Despite the popular only child stereotype, I actually enjoy sharing. “What’s mine is yours” was always my philosophy, especially with my friends. The only downside is that hungry broke college students take advantage of this mindset way too often, and who could blame them? For instance, every time me and my roommate or friends would order pizza, you could guarantee that someone would be knocking on our doors or attempting to claim not-yet-abandoned “leftovers.”

The more time I spent on campus, the more I realized that sharing food was more than just giving someone some of your Cheetos. People stop caring about… what were those things again? Oh, right. Germs. Sharing forks, double dipping, sharing drinks and even eating from the same ice cream cone are all too common. Which leads me to my next revelation.

2. Sickness is inevitable.

Try and avoid it, I dare you. No matter how often you brag about a strong immune system, everyone is susceptible. Before college, I felt like I at least had some control over my immunity. The rules of hygiene were simple: avoid sick people, don’t come to class if you’re sick, don’t share food and eat/drink plenty of vitamins (especially Vitamin C).

But in a dorm, you don’t stand a chance. Everyone is using the same showers, bathrooms and sinks. You’re all breathing the same recycled air, too. And you can't count on your sickened state to get you sympathy points from your professor, unless you’re in the hospital. The best thing I learned as an only child was to avoid sickness as best as you can, and invest in a solid health pack full of get-well amenities. Like it or not, mom and dad definitely won’t be there to nurse you back to health.

3. You're going to get on someone's nerves.

News flash, only-children: Respect is key. Have you ever spent the day practicing your favorite instrument, singing out loud to your favorite jams or having a loud and excited video chat with your out-of-state friend? It happens. Teenagers can be especially rowdy, I must admit.

The downside to this is when you share a wall, ceiling, floor or room with someone who doesn't share your enthusiasm for impromptu dance parties, it can be difficult. All the noisy habits you normally would have done alone in your room, or even your house, must be reconsidered. Best case scenario: someone's going to passive-aggressively sigh or bang on your walls until you take the hint to quiet down. Worse case scenario: a written warning or fine from your RA or Housing Office.

4. There are two kinds of roommates.

“Just don’t let the mess or the smell cross over to my side and we’re good.”

Note that this type of roommate has transcended the meaning of the word “cool.” You’re getting a free pass to make your side of the room as chaotic as you want, but don’t take advantage of it. I repeat. Do not. Only-children's parents are usually quick to tell their kids to clean their room, or at least keep it looking “presentable” as my mom would say. Think of your dorm room the same way. Your parents might not see your room anymore, but you have someone next to you seeing it every day. Trust me, even if your roommate seems chill with constant disaster, give the same respect as if your side of the room was their side of the room. Even if your roomie doesn’t follow this same mindset, it’s good practice and one less cause for a potential conflict.

“Dude… You're messing up the aesthetic.”

Yep. It happens. You have a room to yourself for your whole life. Posters carefully placed, lights strung, and your favorite cinnamon Febreze spritzed throughout. The setup is perfect… Until someone else shares their opinion. Some people are very particular about their living spaces and are simply not used to the same things that you are. To some extent, your side of the room might not be shared, but the atmosphere is. Decor, lighting and aromas included. Try to be flexible, but if you truly love your decorations, don't compromise your happiness for your roommate's approval.

5. My friends are your friends?

Chances are, you or your roommate are going to have some people over. That’s why those dreaded “floor hours” actually come in handy sometimes. Sleepovers are cool when it’s your own room, in your own house, but when you have a test the next morning, late-night visitors can be pretty inconvenient to say the least.

Only-children are only used to sharing their space with people they’re familiar with. My advice to OCs: get used to it. At least introduce yourself to these visitors, and remember to speak up and set some boundaries. To the roommates: try to be understanding. From personal experience, it can be a shock coming back from a full day of classes, ready to relax, to find a party happening in your chill space. Adjusting and adapting is key, but it’ll take some time.

6. Sleep and schedules.

If you’re used to sleeping in as often as you can and having your mom drag you out of bed as a backup to an alarm, get ready for a new arrangement. Your schedule becomes your roommate’s schedule (to an extent, of course). As an only child, one of the upsides of having a small household was that there were rarely scheduling or sleeping conflicts. We woke up quietly, in our own rooms, and made sure that no one else was unnecessarily disturbed.

When you’re in a hall full of 20 other teenagers with wildly different sleep and class schedules, consistency won’t come easy. I learned to gradually ignore the 7am alarm that greeted our room each morning 3 hours before I was scheduled to wake up. I also learned to be more considerate of my roommate's early bed time. I couldn’t just lay in bed late binging Netflix or get up for a late night snack when I knew I could sleep in the next morning. I had to be considerate of my roommate's schedule and preferences, and vice versa.

Overall, having a roommate after being an only child my whole life wasn't that bad. It was a great experience, and I definitely developed some good habits for communication, courtesy and basic housekeeping. It's exciting to share your space with someone, and I'm looking forward to living with not one but two roommates next year! I admit, now I actually prefer having a roommate instead of living by myself! Who would have guessed? Life is truly better when you have people to share it with.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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