For most of my life, I was lucky enough to have my own room and a right to privacy when I wanted it. However, things have changed since I started studying at UWC ISAK Japan, an international boarding school where privacy is a foreign concept.
For weeks, I struggled. Things were especially difficult at night, as I am sensitive to sound and light. Trying to sleep was a frustrating affair, what with roommates typing up assignments under the light of desk lamps, while the thin walls of my room did almost nothing to muffle the sound of late-night gatherings in the common room.
After a month or so, I was at my breaking point, ready to lash out at any unsuspecting friend or housemate. “Why can’t everyone be more considerate?” I moaned – to myself, that is; I would never dream of voicing my complaints out loud.
I soon realised this was the root of the problem. I had not had any discussions with my roommates about the boundaries I wanted them to respect. Here I was, getting mad and resentful, expecting everyone to understand what I wanted from them without ever expressing it.
Back at home, I had felt so comfortable with my family that I did not hesitate to tell them what I was thinking or how I was feeling. And if all else failed, there was always my room to retreat to. Living in a house full of virtual strangers is a very different set of circumstances.
But that should not stop you – or me – from setting your boundaries with others. If there is a rule you would like everyone to respect, speak up. If you do not, no-one will realise, and you’ll be left stewing in your own juices.
While at first it felt like I was imposing on others, I have gradually become more at ease with making my boundaries clear. If I’d like the room to be dark after 11:30, I tell my roommates and they do their best to respect my wishes. Because in the long run, making sure you are comfortable is vital to maintaining healthy relationships with others.