your first six weeks as a new RA!
By Jason L.
Dunlap, Resident Assistant
just now chalking up your first six weeks worth of experience as a new
Resident Assistant, congratulations! You made the social, emotional and
mental leap to become an RA, and the start of the semester gave you time
to break in your RA shoes. What new experiences have you had?
What did you encounter that you hadnt expected? While each school
and every environment breeds different trends, some first-month expectations
transcend these differences. Here are some things almost any new RA can
relate to: Roommate Conflicts, Freshman Homesickness, Being a Role Model,
Challenges to your Authority, and arranging Residence Hall Programs.
roommates and I just dont click!
have already come to you with grievances and complaints about their roommates,
you know how many ways humans can get annoyed at each other. Usually these
conflicts smooth over with time, but some situations involve irreparable
approach to a resident with a roommate complaint is to just let them talk.
Chances are theyve been annoyed or upset for a while, and its
better for them to vent to you completely than explode in front of their
roommate. By hearing their side of the story you also get a feel for whether
this is a one-sided conflict or if both roommates have contributed to
the problem. After letting them talk, ask what they would like to see
happen. It helps to give your residents peaceful, civil suggestions for
working it out on their own with their roommate, but sometimes sit-down
talks between the parties are necessary.
just want to go home!
probably not surprised by the disparity between the all-involved, ambitious
freshman and the reclusive, homesick freshman. When you came to school
you probably knew a variety of people in each category. Even though you
cheer on the new student who joined seven campus clubs, remember to pay
special attention to homesick freshmen: your help could determine whether
or not they stay at school!
who feel uncomfortable or out-of-place can give up on their college experience
because they just want to go home. Hopefully they just need
some help getting adjusted, and leaving school isnt absolutely necessary.
To help, seek out and talk to students who are quiet or shy, and interact
especially with those who say they want to go home. Try introducing homesick
students to other residents, let them talk to you about their old high
school or their family, and emphasize how fun school can be and how happy
you are to be there. Seeing an RA be enthusiastic about school can help
them find their own ways to be happy about being in college.
do I see as a role model on campus? Probably my RA
a new RA it might feel awkward to be looked at as a Role Model.
Half the time we dont have our own lives figured out, let alone
feel like experts other people can turn to! The unavoidable truth, however,
is that RAs are seen as Role Model Students. Freshmen copy
our behavior because they think we know what were doing, and older
residents know what it takes to be successful and hold us to higher standards.
How do you
handle this abstract responsibility? Be a positive person, do your work
and pay attention to how others perceive your behavior. There is an elusive
balance between being your self and trying to look perfect in front of
everyone. Role models are students with normal student problems, but they
do give an example of the best approach to college life.
should I listen to you? Youre just an RA
with other students can be very intimidating to new RAs. Youre usually
not much older, maybe no bigger, and not always smarter than other students
around you, yet you have authority over them. What do you do when that
authority is challenged?
will prefer to cooperate with you instead of a higher authority. If someone
challenges or confronts you and argues with you, it leads to problems
much more often than when you say well, do you want to talk to the
police about it instead? The vast majority of students will respect
you as an authority when they realize you are backed by a slew of other
RAs, Hall Directors, and, ultimately, police officers.
As far as
awkwardness after a confrontation, residents may avoid you for days or
weeks after you step in as an authority over them. One of the best ways
to handle this is to keep smiling or saying hello when you
see them, and talk it over when they are ready.
to a residence hall program? Yeah right!
are as disappointing and ego crushing as arranging an elaborate, creative
program, and having almost no one show up. You can feel unappreciated,
unpopular, even avoided. The biggest culprit in low program attendance,
however, is insufficient or ineffective advertising.
only three people how exciting and amazing a program will be does not
work. Neither does slipping a boring flyer under every single door in
the building. If you want people to show up at your programs, nothing
works better than inviting every person you see in the residence hall
from the time you start planning it to the day of the event. Residents
will feel personally invited to attend, they will have the chance to ask
you for details about where and when it is, and they will tell their friends
that one of the RAs invited them.
more months to come
you enjoyed getting your feet wet this first six weeks as a new RA. As
youve probably seen, school changes after the first three or four
weeks. Professors settle into a routine, campus groups get more active
and involved, and everyone starts running on their own schedules. Your
role as an RA will also change from a beginning-of-the-semester resource
and guide to the positive role model who is a constant figure who looks
over the established community in your hall. Good luck with the rest of
the semester, stay positive about how important you are to the residents
around you, and enjoy being an RA!
About the Author
Jason L. Dunlap is a third year Resident Assistant at the University of Rhode Island. He is a senior journalism major, who aspires to become a writer, author, husband and father. As hobbies, Jason enjoys horseback riding, mountain biking, skiing, reading, writing, and cooking.