Michael Conley / GAZETTE

"I'm going to take a pillowcase and fill it full of bars of soap and beat the shit out of you."

When Brennan Huff (Will Farrell) uttered those words in 2008's Step Brothers, incoming first years were 10 years old. Those with siblings found inspiration, those without found comfort.

Regardless of sibling count, angst toward the person sharing your room is something this year's residence cohabitants may come to identify with. According to a 2009 study from Boise State University, it may be that around 25 per cent of students will experience roommate conflict. 

I was fortunate. I roomed with a best friend from elementary school during my first year at Ontario Hall. We got along great.

But another friend in O-Hall wasn't so lucky. He got up to use the washroom one night and two people were fornicating on his bathroom floor. One was his suitemate. Technically speaking, suitemates are not roommates, but when their discharge marks your bathroom floor the experience becomes shared. Where's that pillowcase full of bars of soap when you need it?

Now while I was lucky with my own roommate, I recall fourth-floor roommates in O-Hall who were badgered by an inconsiderate pairing above them. The fifth-floor irritants would bounce a ball on their floor at all hours. The fourth-floor pairing posted in the O-Hall Facebook group, asking the ball bouncers to stop. It briefly persisted.

I was one of the two bouncing the ball — sorry.

Unfortunately, organizing your life won't organize the web of lives around you; a residence population is full of people of varying backgrounds, beliefs and ego sizes, creating an environment that lacks the structure and customs of home.

This upheaval contributes to roommate woes. The same Boise State University study found a significant change in one's life, such as moving away from home, often causes emotional distress. This in turn can lead to anxiety, depression, fatigue and declining academic success.

Further, when two people, such as new roommates, are experiencing this change together, mood swings in one may affect mood swings in the other. Happy friends make us happier and sad friends make us sadder. The same can be said for drinking and grades: a binge-drinking roommate will increase your likelihood of drinking and a laggardly roommate might lower your grades.

But note that campus and residences abound with options to get involved and meet new people. If 25 per cent of people really do experience roommate conflict, and you're one of them, then one in four people are in the same boat. And as for your roommate, communicating with them and rez staff about conflicts will improve your situation more than avoidance.

Trust me. A friend didn't get along with her roommate, but rather than communicating they ignored one another. And then on move-out day, they didn't even say goodbye.

But take heed first years, for even our rambunctious Step Brothers' castaways found safe haven. By wielding empathy for 'the other' they saw hurdles become negligible differences compared to what they had in common.

First-year is inherently challenging. Despite a secured roommate situation, I still faced hurdles with wellness. Being dropped into a building with up to 1,250 other students, on a campus with 30,000 more undergrads, was bound to be a turbulent, once-in-a-lifetime experience — for better or worse. 

However, as clinical psychologist Sarah Erb has pointed out, "roommates are a specific type of interpersonal relationship widely and uniquely experienced by college students." So perhaps view the ups and downs as one-day, cherishable moments rather than existential annoyances.

Overall, building positive residence relationships will help your adjustment to Western University. Between spending time apart by entering the wild world of social engagement and good ol' fashioned self-reflection, finding common ground with a roommate is possible.

And if not, second year's only 12 months away.

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