(File pix) Dirty dishes pile up if left unchecked.

I LIVED under one roof with complete strangers in tiny studio apartments as a student pursuing a diploma course in Malaysia as well as a degree programme in the United States.

Many hijinks occur and challenges arise when four to five students, who were teenagers in secondary school just a few years ago, stay together.

General roommate etiquette such as doing the dishes, splitting bills and adhering to payment schedules is not taught in school. Some tips on surviving with housemates and in the dormitory can go a long way in making your experience as a student considerably better.

Everyone likes to eat but washing up is a different matter. Dishes stack up if left unchecked.

And it may not seem like much of an issue since most students eat their meals at different hours because of different class schedules and do not spend too much time in the kitchen.

However, dirty dishes attract vermin, houseflies and maggots; you will end up with a bigger problem than dirty dishes.

Ground rules need to be enforced. Prepare a duty roster or make it a rule that everyone cleans their own dishes. Alternatively, use paper plates and cups. This is a solution as long as no one forgets to take out the trash.

New students often get locked out of their apartments because they lost their keys. This means either waiting a few hours for someone with a key to come back home, calling a locksmith or climbing through a window, which is not recommended.

To mitigate this problem, keep a spare key in your backpack or wallet. It may be worth getting a small carabiner that attaches to a belt loop or backpack so your keys are always with you. Hiding a spare apartment key outdoors can be a good idea too. Make sure it is in an obscure spot and never hide it under the doormat as thieves will check there first.

I hid my spare key under a big rock far away from my apartment door that no one would think to check. Mailbox keys tend to be smaller and even easier to misplace, so get a spare.

Painting keys with different primary-coloured nail polish makes them visible in dark spaces and easier to tell them apart on the keychain.

If you rent an apartment off-campus as a student, this will likely come with some of your first real-world adult responsibilities. You will have to pay utility bills and the rent on time. You may have housemates who may not be prompt with their share of the bills.

Appoint a financially responsible housemate to collect payments from the others as their money comes in at different periods of the month.

Send out reminders on payments within 10 days of due date. To make it easier on everyone, check when each bill is due. Sometimes the due dates are in the middle of the following month which offer leeway to everyone.

Settle bills in the order due. Consistency in scheduling payments helps everyone to manage their finances accordingly. Students can opt to take responsibility for a utility bill each.

If the food bill is shared, set a budget and monitor it.

Another option is a community kitty. Make purchases with the money, with receipts as proof. The kitty is especially useful for emergency expenses such as repairs. It is worth setting up online subscriptions to certain supplies for the discount normally offered.


Emillio Daniel is an adventurous English and Creative Writing graduate from The University of Iowa in the United States. Email him at education@nst.com.my

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