Before leaving on my year abroad I felt that everyone had talked to me about the dreaded “roommate” situation. Everyone who had been on years/ semesters abroad before me had horror stories lined up about their roommate. So of course I was nervous. I hadn’t shared a room with someone since I was 9 years old and to say I was a bit worried would be an understatement. When I was given my roommate allocation I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was allocated another international student. Although a lot of people asked me if I was disappointed she wasn’t American, honestly I wasn’t. I knew that if I felt homesick, or was having a bit of a culture shock she would be feeling it 10 times more than me because she was from even further away, Dubai. We emailed, which then turned into Snapchatted and Facebooked before we arrived in Maryland and upon our first meeting we didn’t even feel like strangers. We were both extremely chatty and had a lot to talk about makeup, music, the Kardashians, to be honest I would have been shocked if she didn’t know who Kim Kardashian was. It soon became clear that some rules would have to be laid down in our room for my roommate to feel completely comfortable, and I of course was willing to do so. My roommate was a fairly strict muslim, she prayed five times a day, didn’t eat pork, wore a hijab etc. So we decided to make the rule that boys could only come into the room if she wasn’t present or if she knew about it in advance so to make sure she would be wearing her hijab. We also agreed that no boys would stay the night unless organised in advance (I have a boyfriend so this wasn’t an issue for me). It was a bit of a shock at first as I lived with three boys in my last house in Manchester, and shared a flat with boys and girls in Oak house in first year. It took a bit of getting used to not just waltzing into my room with my friends who are boys, but I appreciated that she wasn’t being awkward or trying to make it strange, but ultimately religion and her comfort level came first and I was absolutely fine with that.
Once the big rules were out of the way we also made a rule that I could ask her anything about her religion and she could ask me anything about western culture, alcohol, media, fashion etc. and we would answer truthfully. I loved that we made this rule because I never felt awkward asking about her faith or about Dubai as a nation. I ended up learning so much and realising that even though I believed myself to be a fairly educated cultured person there was a lot I was unaware of. In fact, prior to living with my roommate I believe in some cases I was naive and ignorant about Islam. Of course this was all great and I was so lucky that we were both chatty and had lots in common, however, of course it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows (it never is when you live with someone). We spent the first couple of months without a single disagreement, in fact the entire semester was pretty smooth sailing apart from one thing.
I like to call in Alarmgate.
So my roommate was a very hard worker, I mean she studied constantly day and night. Which is great I guess. But it started getting not so great when she would set an alarm at 3am or 5am to get up and study. However due to the fact she was a heavy sleeper she would snooze the alarm or just not hear it at all, which would mean that I would have to get out of bed and turn the alarm off. Or just as I was getting back to sleep the alarm would go off again because she snoozed it instead of turning it off. This went on for about 4 nights before I said anything, as I wasn’t sure if it was midterm week etc. However, I eventually had to lay down the law and tell her that she wasn’t allowed to set an alarm before 7am, and if she did she had to turn it off the first time it went off. She wasn’t allowed to snooze the alarm. This worked and we only had 3 or 4 more occasions where she snoozed the alarm. This might sound kind of immature to get het up about an alarm, but sleep is very important to me and I had, had, had to say something. If she read this now she would definitely be laughing and the last thing she said to me before she left was hope you have a good sleep next semester.
My roommate was only here for a semester and is now back in Dubai. My best friend from last semester will be moving into my room for the Spring, which I am really excited about. Ultimately, for me the experience of a roommate was amazing and I never once wished that I was allocated a single room. But I do think it is important to remember that your room is your space of comfort, safety and SLEEP. So make sure you aren’t afraid to talk to your roommate and tell them what you require to feel comfortable because at the end of the day if you don’t talk and if you don’t express your needs you won’t be happy in your own space. My roommate and I weren’t the best of friends, in fact we spent very little time together outside of our room. But we were friends and I wouldn’t have changed her for the world.
This picture is us on the only snow day of the semester. This was the first time she had ever seen snow.