Perhaps the semester didn’t pass quick enough. Maybe it went by too quickly. Anyhow, it’s now over and the second half of the academic year has begun. This marks the second half of your duties as a RA. Now’s a great time to take a look back upon your experiences from your first semester, learn from you triumphs and mistakes, and use this knowledge to have an even better second semester.
Some RAs fear it, some seem to love it. Programming might be intimidating for the first year RA, especially if you don’t know too much about your residents’ interests. In the first semester, you had a plethora of good ideas. Now, you might have used most of them with varying results. Have no idea what programs you will do this semester? A good way to overcome this barrier, if you have not done so already, is to talk to your residents and see what type of programs they would be interested in. Successful programming is an important part of your position.
So, no one showed up for that one program you had last semester? Maybe you should consider why no one showed up. Was it the way in which you advertised? Was the name of the program too intimidating? Was the program at a bad time or were the residents just not interested? Not only is a program not useful to the residents when they don’t show up, it’s also a disappointment for you. As a RA, you spend plenty of time preparing programs. It is best not to dwell on such incidents and mistakes, but rather learn from them and adapt accordingly. One way to help avoid time conflicts is to talk to your residents and see what their schedules are like. Obviously, according to the college rule of time, no one time will be good for everybody. One time that might be great for one group of residents could be terrible for another group. Try and find a time that works for most of your residents.
When it comes to programs, be creative! Creative programming not only encourages residents to come out to a specific program, but also ensures that they will want to continue coming to your programs. Think beyond the norm for some great ideas. Remember, however, that the ideas don’t necessarily need to be grand or elaborate. So, you want to have an international program this semester? How about discussing some current issues in China as you enjoy some Chinese food you have ordered as a floor? For a community service program, you could possibly make sandwiches on campus for the local homeless shelter or food pantry, and then deliver them. Whatever the program, always remember the wonder of food. If your budget allows, try to always have some type of food or refreshments at programs. It can be something simple like popcorn, cookies, or soda to more expensive foods, such as pizza. This can encourage residents to come to a program, even if they are not entirely interested in the program itself. Hopefully, by the end of the program, you changed the minds of such residents and they are glad that they came.
The RA position has a lot of commitments in addition to those you have as a student. Remember to practice good time management skills in order to avoid conflicts and surprises. An important thing to remember as you go into your second semester as a RA is to take care of yourself. Know your limitations and don’t over engage yourself. Make some time just to kick back and relax. You work hard during the year between your duties as a RA, a student, and possibly another job or internship. You deserve a break. Even if it’s a trip to the mall with friends, quiet time alone in your room, or doing a favorite hobby, you owe this to yourself. You know best what you like to do, so it is up to you to allow yourself the time to do it.
Interacting with the residents is perhaps one of the most important parts of being a RA. Remember, as you go into second semester, deal with problems regarding residents as they arise rather than putting them off and planning to deal with them in the future. Even if it something as simple as Bob in room 222 never cleans his dishes and you hear his roommates complain about this, you might want to stop by and talk about it. Maybe you know of a problem that is more serious. However, the longer you wait to deal with problems, the worse the situation will become.
There is Always Something to Learn
Remember: there is always something to be learned. All RAs are constantly learning and adapting. The difference between a good RA and the better RA is the ability to learn. Actively adapting to the changing needs of your residents will enable you to continue being a valuable resource to them. Adapting to your own personal changing needs will allow you to deal with them more effectively. Remember to adapt, to program creatively, deal with issues, manage your time well, and give yourself a break once in a while. With these points in mind, you can and will have a good second semester.
Submitted by Rich Shami, Resident Assistant, Loyola College in Maryland