Living with someone requires a balance of mutual respect, cooperation, and consideration. What is the best way to create this atmosphere? Proactive communication is essential to successful roommate relationships.
Starting this year, KDI School has implemented the Roommate Agreement Form. This form outlines the conditions and responsibilities of each roommate in order to ensure that roommates understand each other’s needs and expectations and in hopes that it will help prevent conflicts from arising.
In November, the “Best Roommates on the KDIS Campus” contest was held so that roommates could share their stories about struggles they faced with their roommates and how the Roommate Agreement Form worked as a tool to de-escalate the conflict.
Here are the winners of the contest. Check out their stories below.
1. TIU, Gabriel Mico Estanislao (Philippines/2020 Spring)
It was the Spring Semester of 2020 when I was introduced to my roommate for the duration of my stay at KDI School. I was enthralled with the perception of having a roommate as I was eager to make friends with students from different backgrounds, especially with someone with who I would be living for the entire school year. Yong and I arguably had the best time of our lives exchanging stories, traditions, and sharing our meals during the first two months as roommates. However, little did I expect that differences may arise over time. Recurring instances of passive-aggressive behavior ensued on his part, which led me to ponder my actions to determine what may have possibly encouraged such comportment. This persisted on and off for around two months. Since no interposition was being done to remedy the situation, I decided to seek external assistance from Student Affairs. This helped manage the situation, but I knew that rekindling a rapport requires more than just intervention; it necessitates dealing with contention between ourselves and others. Hence, given that we had agreed through our Roommate Agreement Form that any conflict arising between the two of us should be managed through an appropriate discussion, we had a long conversation to sort our differences out.
It was then that I came to know that he was suffering from family problems which had been making him obstinately moody and temperamental at times. I told him that he should have been open about it from the very beginning for me to understand his situation. The conversation ended with us agreeing to bury the hatchet. From there on, we were able to live as what we would both consider “exceptional roommates” until I had to transfer to fulfill my duties as a dormitory assistant. Nonetheless, we still meet and share food from time to time. We owe it both to the utilization of the Roommate Agreement Form and our shared strong intention to come to terms.
Living with a roommate, especially one from a different country, is an enormously profound experience that has taught us how to adapt and respect each other. The key to settling differences is open communication and, of course, being patient. After all, KDI School molds us to be resilient and adaptable to a diverse environment.
2. CASTRO SANCHEZ, Alda Cecilia (Nicaragua/2020 Spring)
When I received the news of my admission to KDI School many emotions arose, some positive, like happiness and excitement, but also others that made me feel anxious. Among the emotions that caused me concern was knowing that for approximately one year I was going to have a roommate. I cannot lie and say that I was excited by the idea because I had never shared my room with anyone and I knew that the privacy I was used to was going to be drastically reduced. However, before coming to South Korea I mentally prepared myself and did my best to be positive, although I have to confess, I was not very optimistic.
I clearly remember the day I met my roommate; I had arrived in South Korea days before her and we finally met on February 1st of this year. Stephie is from Saint Lucia, and I am from Nicaragua, and although geographically our countries are not very far from each other, the cultural differences are considerable. My first impression of her was that she was remarkably tall, quite the opposite of me, and it was very funny for me to see that standing next to her I looked even smaller than I am. In terms of her way of being, you could notice at a first glimpse that she was a very polite and friendly person.
The first day living together was not difficult. I advised her with the little information that I had of living on campus and our relationship on the first day was very good. However, in those first few days I did not know how to react to some circumstances. For example, she used to fall asleep early (because of jet lag) and when I returned to the room a bit late she was already asleep. Every time I opened the door I woke her up, but even a detail as insignificant as that had me very concerned because I didn’t know if she was upset about it and we never discussed it.
In those first few days as roommates, and Stephie and I did not talk too much. I think it was because we were both still adjusting ourselves to our new reality, and neither she nor I in those first days discussed many issues that we should have discussed from the beginning; for example, the schedule to turn off the light at night, talking on the phone late at night, room cleaning schedules, and responsibilities, among other things. Precisely in this aspect, the roommate agreement helped us a lot because by discussing it, we were able to agree on all those details that I mentioned. What’s more, the truth is that if there were no such agreement, we would have definitely never discussed them and most likely we would have had conflicts in the future. When we answered each of the items of the roommate agreement, we realized that we agreed on many things and were able to agree on details that, although they seemed insignificant, are very important when living with another person; for example, the time to turn off the light at night. I want to take this small but important example to explain how the roommate agreement helped us to improve our roommate relationship. In the first days (before discussing the agreement) I used to keep the main light on at late night to make video calls to my family (due to time differences) and at that time she had already gone to sleep, and since we hadn’t discussed the schedules, I felt like there was no problem. Some other days she used to do the same (keep the main light on at night when I was trying to sleep) but in those days none of us talked about that issue. Later, when we discussed the roommate agreement, we agreed on a time to turn off the main light and from that moment we both respected it. Of course, if we were both studying, we would have kept the light on until one of us decided to go to sleep. Thanks to the roommate agreement we never had to ask each other to turn off the light, since we knew that at 11 pm the light had to be turned off (with exceptions, of course).
Over time, my relationship with Stephie improved considerably — we were always very respectful to each other and consulted each other on aspects that could interfere with our roommate relationship. With the arrival of COVID-19, we began to spend much more time together as we both took online classes in our room and were practically together 24/7. Stephie and I used to have endless hours of conversations; she used to talk to me about her classes, her worries, and her course workload, and I used to do the same. We also used to share our experiences of dorm life and activities with our group of friends as well. I remember that we used to laugh a lot because I think we both have a good sense of humor. With time we got used to each other until we reached the point that when spring break came and she traveled to Seoul, I couldn’t sleep because I felt alone since she was not in the room (Crazy, I know.).
Stephie and I became good friends and we both attended each other’s birthday celebrations. Although now she is a Dormitory Assistant and we are no longer roommates, we always maintain communication; we frequently text each other on WhatsApp and send each other endless audio messages*. Not having her as a roommate anymore is sad, but the important thing is that we are still friends and from time to time we exchange gifts. For example, she knows that I love the mac and cheese that she cooks and every time she prepares it, she gives me a little and I become a happy person (She knows I love food) 😊. To be honest, Stephie and I never had a huge conflict. We were always respectful to each other. That does not mean that we were perfect roommates — I am pretty sure that she may have not liked some of my attitudes, and also I may have not liked some of hers, but that is completely normal, and I consider the best way to navigate through this is focusing on and appreciating the good qualities of your roommate instead of the bad ones.
From my experience with Stephie, I can say that having a roommate when you are so far away from home makes you feel less lonely. While it is true that for many people having a roommate is difficult, in the end it is an experience that makes you grow. Personally, I grew a lot by having a roommate. I left my comfort zone, learned to be more mature and respect differences and improved my manners by learning how to react in a less selfish and effusive way. Definitely, having a roommate had good effects on me.
If I could give advice to people who have a roommate or who are going to have one, my first advice would be that feeling anxious and not being happy with the idea of having a roommate should not prevent you from opening your mind to the new experience and focusing on getting the best out of the situation. Also, communication with your roommate is essential. It is true that it is not always easy to talk about sensitive topics, especially when we do not know how the other person will react and we do not want to create an uncomfortable environment with the person we will see every day of our life for a year. However, it is always better to do it, and you will be surprised that most of the time the problem is overthinking the situation. Finally, my last advice would be to try to get to know your roommate better. I think that is the most fruitful part of the relationship — to be able to exchange ideas and anecdotes, because it will make you both closer and that is essential to building a good roommate relationship.
Stephie and I have little time left at KDI School, and we will probably never see each other again, but I’m pretty sure that our friendship will last, and that we are, without a doubt, the best roommates on campus.