As stated in the movie Forest Gump, being a RA is “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get”. Sure that may sound a bit silly, but it’s true.
Whether you realize it at this point or not, from the first day that residents arrive to the last day the halls are open; this job will continually throw curve balls at you…day in and day out. Hold on a second…that implies that the days end…well they don’t.
When you are a RA, you can be called on at anytime day or night. This is my subtle lead into saying that when you are a RA you are constantly on call and are always a RA first. In whatever you do or wherever you go you now carry the title of RA. This is both a positive and a negative. It is a negative in the fact that you must take responsibility for everything you do. You must always remember that doing something and having no one find out about it now is a difficult task. You were selected for the position because you demonstrated superior qualities, work ethic, and character than the others who applied for the job. Take pride in that! Being a representative of your school is a great aspect of being a RA and something that teaches responsibility.
I’d like to explore the negatives of the position at this time.
The negative happens when you are tired, physically and mentally drained from the rigors of college academia. It becomes difficult to balance being a full time student and a residence life staff member, and at points all you may want to do is just get away for awhile. If you need to “get away”, I strongly recommend that you leave your campus to regroup, because when you are on campus you are always the RA.
As a RA it is incredibly difficult to balance being friends with your residents and just wanting to be “one of the guys”, when one of your roles is authority figure. This was the hardest thing that I found in the position during my first year. As part of my strategy for approaching the job, I decided that I wanted to be friends with my residents and that I would gain their trust and respect for discipline situations that would arise. I also really wanted to get to know the guys that I would be living with, more than just a name and face. This technique worked well for me, but at points it was difficult. I grew to be good friends with many of my residents and at points I found myself wanting to just be one of them without the responsibility that comes along with being a student staff member. I think that many RAs face similar feelings about this situation. I would recommend being friends with your residents, but realize that balancing friendship and holding a position of authority can at points seem impossible.
The rest of the negatives of the position come and go and they are momentary. Keep that in mind. Just to list a few, they are doing bulletin boards, duty rounds, door decorations, meetings, and more meetings. These are at times stressful and I won’t deny that, but after looking at how much you take from the experience they won’t even matter.
The good news…the positives of being a student staff member greatly outweigh the negatives.
The positive aspects come from the experiences that you have, the people you encounter, the successes and failures, from being apart of a staff team, from building a community that you are proud of, and much more. These things do not happen overnight. They may take the entire year to materialize. Some of the positives you won’t even realize until the year has ended. Some of the positives will probably come to you much later than that.
My point is that the positives will clearly outweigh the negatives.
During difficult periods on the job, if you read this article you may think to yourself, “That guy was so wrong!”
But trust me, after the dust has settled on your experience as a Resident Assistant you will be amazed at how much you have taken from the experience.
Submitted by Aaron Pabst, Resident Assistant, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse