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(Winnie Lin / The McGill Tribune)

With whom to room: Advice on living with friends, randoms, or alone

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Many McGill students are now planning their accommodations for the upcoming year. In doing so, one of the biggest questions they face is with whom to share their living space. Many are at a crossroads and have to decide whether to live with close friends, random strangers, or by themselves. The McGill Tribune spoke with students with a variety of living experiences, who shared their thoughts and advice.

Just Friends: Living with BFFs

When searching for roommates, it’s common to start with one’s own friends. Especially for first-year students looking to move out of McGill residences, the most obvious choice of roommates begins within the pool of friends made in Rez.

Catherine Ross, B.A. ‘16, is currently doing her Master's in Geology at McGill. Throughout her time at university, she has lived both with friends and by herself. In her second year of undergrad, she moved into an apartment west of campus with a close friend. The year after, she lived in the Milton-Parc Community with several other close friends. 

“It was a lot of fun,” Ross said about her experience living with friends. “We had a lot of late night snack runs and movie nights.”

Sharing an apartment with friends can feel like an endless slumber party, especially for students who are new to the experience. It’s also extremely convenient and offers peace of mind to stressed students and first-time apartment-seekers, as they can navigate the complex world of apartment hunting with someone trustworthy.  

Nevertheless, it’s important to consider personal compatibility with prospective roommates, otherwise problems can arise quickly. Though Ross thought she knew everything about her friends before living with them, it proved to be an entirely new experience that she wasn’t completely prepared for.  

Ross admitted that she encountered differences with her roommates. The roommates found it difficult to communicate problems to each other, even though all were close friends. Common conflicts over chores, noise levels, or having people over tend to take on a more personal note when they arise between friends. Confronting a roommate about these issues can seem like a personal attack, but not saying anything can lead to animosity. Fights have higher stakes, as the friendship itself can be put on the line. 

“You really have to address [these] problems in a way that’s helpful,” Ross advised. “Like, don’t just say [to your roommate], ‘You never wash the dishes.’ [Offer] some kind of advice with it.”

Ross believes discipline is important when rooming with friends. Setting boundaries and making sure everyone has a part in cleaning the apartment are some ways to minimize potential arguments or problems.

“One roommate was really good at [keeping] everyone on track,” Ross said. “[She] made a chore chart [….] This is my number one recommendation! [Keep] a chore chart. We had a daily chore, which was, like, taking out the trash. Then we [each] had a weekly thing, which was like a room to clean.”

Roommate situations can be tense, and rooming with friends can either be an amazing experience, or it can hurt a friendship permanently. Ross emphasized the importance of effective communication and not letting small daily frustrations—like not doing the dishes, or taking too long in the bathroom—build up until they lead to resentment.

“I think it’s nice to live with your friends because you get to hang out all the time,” Ross said. “But it’s important to set boundaries [and make sure] that everyone is respectful.”

Stranger Things: Living with “randoms”

For other students, the obvious choice is to live with new people. This situation allows you to preserve current friendships from potential conflict that can arise when living together, but still enables you to have roommates, which can be financially and socially desirable. 

The closeness of your relationship with a new roommate is entirely dependent on factors such as lifestyle and how much energy you want to put into fostering friendships with your roommates. For Vincent Li, U2 Arts, who chose to live with three roommates who were all in their final year at McGill, his busy schedule has kept these relationships at a relative distance.

“I’m very busy with my own life. I normally go out at 8 in the morning […] and normally go back home at 9 p.m.,” Li said. “[My roommates and I] don’t really have time to chill or talk.”

Of course, living with strangers requires a genuine enthusiasm to meet new people and a level of open-mindedness towards them. For Li, his acceptance toward new people led him to decide that living with strangers was the right path for him. 

“I’m not a very picky person,” Li said. “[….] I found [my roommates] more put-together and I thought I wouldn’t find them too messy or noisy. I wasn’t completely rational about it, but I knew it wouldn’t be a problem for me.”  

Though his living situation turned out positively, Li still acknowledges that living with strangers can be a risk. Should you decide to live with strangers, you should at least have basic knowledge of your future roommates’ sleeping habits, level of noise, and personality to ensure that arguments don’t arise due to conflicts in these areas. 

“Living with strangers is taking a lot of risks,” Li said. “[….] So, [one should] find the middle ground to get the ideal situation [like living with] people that you meet maybe four times a semester and you find them very easy to talk to and you have the same living habits.” 

Home Alone: Living the studio life

While there are many benefits to sharing a home with roommates—such as splitting costs for rent and utilities—some students choose to live by themselves. 

For Ross, who currently lives in a studio apartment in the Plateau, living alone offers a chance to have her own private space. Ultimately, the decision to live by herself was more a matter of convenience than anything. For students with roommate compatibility issues, or for those who simply do not want to deal with the inconveniences that can arise from sharing a living space, living alone can enable complete and utter freedom.

However, this independence has downsides as well, according to Ross. She has found that without anyone around, she is less disciplined about completing household chores, which has also spilled over into her academic productivity.

“[I’ve become] more dirty,” Ross admitted, with a laugh. “I thought living alone was going to make me really productive [with homework]. But it actually does the opposite. Because when you have other people around—I don’t know, I’m quite competitive—it motivated me, just seeing other people working.”

Another issue that arises with living alone is loneliness. For those who like quiet and space to recharge, the solitude can be a blessing. For others, like Ross, living alone can cause a craving for more social interaction. 

“I’m pretty extroverted, so if I do feel the need to hang out with people, [I will],” Ross said. “But you don’t have anyone to come home and talk to. Like, I come home and I see something funny on the way back, or at school, and I come home [and have no one to tell it to].”

In the end, Ross believes that your living experience is all about what you make of it. Living in a studio apartment can be isolating; therefore, it’s important to stay connected with friends. But this can also be a form of escape, especially for people who don’t wish to deal with awkward or tiresome social interactions in the comfort of their own home.

“I like living alone,” she said. “Because I can come home and do what I want without [dealing] with anyone or [any] small-talk.”

Regardless of one’s housing situation, the only surefire way to know which housing situation suits one best is to try it. Though living alone, with friends, or with new people all come with both benefits and risks, entering into new living experiences prepared is the best way to go.

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