Roommates Abroad—Setting Ground Rules

Emilie Agras headshot
Emilie Agras
December 20, 2023

Embarking on a journey abroad is not merely about traveling; it's an opportunity to forge connections with new people. For many of us, the prospect of not having familiar faces from home alongside us is a reality. Instead, we find ourselves sharing living spaces with assigned roommates, ushering in a unique blend of risk, discomfort, and excitement. The experience of living with someone you don't know is inherently distinct, pushing you beyond your comfort zone and imparting valuable lessons in adaptability—a hallmark of studying abroad.

Throughout my time abroad, I've had the privilege of sharing living quarters with three distinct roommates, each contributing to my overseas adventure. What ensued was an environment characterized by responsibility and mutual respect for each other's personal space. Reflecting on this journey, I'd like to share some insights and practical tips that have helped maintain harmony in our little apartment, serving as a guide for others navigating the intricacies of cohabitation in an unfamiliar setting.

One of the initial agreements we made centered around sharing certain items that lent themselves to communal use. Spices, olive oil, sauces, salt, and pepper—these were the staples that we decided could be collectively owned. Not only did this foster a sense of community, but it also eliminated the need for duplicate purchases, promoting efficiency in our shared living space.

Organization played a pivotal role in maintaining order within our living quarters. We deliberated and designated specific shelves in the fridge and pantry for each roommate, thereby avoiding confusion and asserting boundaries around our individual food items. This small yet essential step prevented unintentional consumption of someone else's food and kept our shared space neat and tidy.

Another aspect that demanded collective responsibility was the procurement of essential items like laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, and hand and dish soap. To streamline this process, we adopted a rotation system. Using a shared note-taking app, we kept tabs on who was due to purchase the next item, ensuring that the burden was evenly distributed among us.

Understanding the importance of shared schedules was crucial for the smooth functioning of our daily routines. We initiated this by creating a laundry schedule, considering the limited resources available—a small machine and one drying rack—and the constant demand for laundry, especially given our frequent weekend travels. This not only ensured that everyone had equal opportunities to wash their clothes but also facilitated coordination of apartment responsibilities and travel plans.

Similarly, coordinating wake-up times and class schedules became imperative. With varied class timings and personal preferences regarding morning or evening showers, establishing a well-thought-out schedule was crucial to prevent conflicts and ensure that each roommate had the time they needed in the morning. This also extended to travel schedules, aligning our plans to guarantee that essential tasks in the apartment were taken care of in everyone's absence.

Cooking schedules, a potential source of contention in shared living spaces, surprisingly posed no significant challenges in our apartment. We were fortunate that each of us had different preferred cooking times, eliminating conflicts over kitchen use. However, I've heard anecdotes from fellow study abroad students who found it beneficial to develop a cooking schedule to avoid minor inconveniences and promote a more cohesive living environment.

In a compact living space, attention to detail and organization proved instrumental in maneuvering around potential challenges. It not only maintained peace within our quarters but also fostered a sense of cohesion among roommates. Living with new people undoubtedly has its share of difficulties, but being mindful of diverse living environments and practicing respectful communication can transform the experience into an enjoyable journey of personal growth.

Studying abroad serves as a crucible that tests your adaptability. While uncomfortable situations may arise, they provide opportunities for profound learning and self-discovery. Living with new people need not be a source of tension; rather, it can be a platform for forging lasting friendships. At the end of the day, your apartment becomes your home for the next several months, making it essential to cultivate a comfortable and respectful living space. Don't let worries overshadow your experience; instead, relish every moment and allow your apartment to be the least of your concerns. You've got this! Embrace the unique dynamics of living with roommates and cherish the camaraderie that defines your study abroad adventure.

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Emilie Agras headshot

Emilie Agras

Hello! I'm Emilie, a junior at Villanova, passionate about beauty, fashion, adventures, and meeting new people. Fun fact: I studied abroad and lived in London for high school. Can't wait to explore Rome and indulge in the finest gelato!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Villanova University
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