“One day I walked into my apartment and there was a 12-year-old smoking weed and watching Tom and Jerry’s Greatest Hits” says Brittney Gilsdorf, who, out of desperation for a roommate, moved in with a casual acquaintance and suffered the consequences. “She had weirdos over constantly. Once there was some 80-year-old dude on the couch just smoking up.”
Going back to school provides countless headaches, but one of the most immediate struggles to overcome is finding the proper housing to suit your needs and budget. This means a quest for proper roommates. Those residing in a dorm this semester likely have their living situations squared away by this point. But in San Antonio, chances are far greater that a commute lies between you and your 8 a.m. British Lit lecture.
Part of the allure of college is getting away from home, and often an apartment is the most convenient solution to off-campus living. Plus it saves you the hassle of home maintenance. But before you delve into Craigslist postings and approve the first available roommate with a “smoke friendly” descriptor, heed the cautionary tales of students once in the same position.
“My first college roommate was a born-again Christian. She cried constantly about being homesick. She went to school 40 miles away from home,” said Lisa Vasquez, who paired with her roommate without so much as a personal meeting first. “It was even worse once she got a boyfriend to miss.”
But above and beyond all eccentricities, there’s one preeminent trait to require: make sure they can pay rent on time. Regan Arevalos has had a revolving door of roommates over the years and says nothing is worse than a winter without heat due to a negligent roommate.
“I had to warm up pots of water on the stove and use a series of Pepsi bottles to take a shower one winter,” said Arevalos. “I’ve had guys pay rent in change, but that’s better than no rent at all.”
Moving in with friends often provides the flexibility to rent a house as opposed to an apartment, which can work out to be less expensive. However, rooming with friends has its own risks. “Living with friends is always a wild card. You go in as friends and end up leaving as enemies,” says Javier Gutierrez, who now rents a single bedroom apartment just two miles from his campus.
Close proximity to school can translate into major savings in gas, and the ability to wake up 20 minutes before class can be a definite plus in the often late-night college lifestyle.
To save even more money, there is always the option of keeping roommates you’ve likely had for the larger part of your life: mom and dad. More and more often students are commuting from their parents’ homes as the cost of tuition and textbooks increases.
However, for those who can’t stomach another day under their parents’ roof and are willing to live with strangers, websites such as Roommates.com and EasyRoommate.com offer roommate location services all over the country. These websites feature detailed profiles of potential roommates and renters as well as search engines to narrow down criteria.
And for you who will never reside in a dorm, don’t think you’re missing out on the party of a lifetime. A bad neighbor can sometimes be as annoying as a bad roommate, says Jessica Cardenas. “My dorm neighbor was obsessed with Power Rangers and one day saw me wearing a Power Rangers shirt. He bothered me constantly. The smell coming from his room and his towers of empty Mountain Dew cans was awful.”
Keep in mind that this is college. At some point you will need to have a quiet, relaxing space to study and read. Establish ground rules on guests and study schedules early in the relationship with your new roommate. Picking a roommate who isn’t currently enrolled in school or has never been through the grind of a semester can often lead to misunderstandings and resentment when it comes time to stop partying and write up that eight-page paper on the use of chiaroscuro. •