Many of us work at Colleges and Universities with a very sizable “Gymbag” Population, large groups of residents that leave school for home on the weekends, and this leaves the rest of the students that can’t go home at school to seek alternative activities. Partying always seems to be an option, but there are better things to do on the weekends.
Weekends are a time to relax from studying and working, a time to reflect on the previous week and all of its toils and adventures and to prepare for the next week of doing the same thing. As a RA, you might be able to see the weekends as a golden time for some excellent programs and a great time to get to know your residents and have some fun with them.
Winter weekends can be especially hard on everyone, academics are hard, the weather is cold, and being trapped inside on a weekend can be a horrible thing, but it does not have to be.
Cold weather is probably the best time for a tropical party. Feature Jimmy Buffet or another tropical entertainer, and hold a party in a lounge area. Invite all of your residents to wear tropical regalia, including bathing suits if it is warm enough. Turn up the thermostat a bit and bring in those ugly tropical plants you have seen in your resident’s rooms for décor, and then serve tropical foods like pizza with pineapple and chips and salsa or tropical drinks like mocktail pina coladas and margaritas.
Creating a tropical party is certainly a theme you can get real involved with. I have even heard of a party at another Maryland college where the lounge floor was covered with sand for the party (hint: This is a bad idea and the sand creates a huge mess.)
For those who live in the colder climates of the world, have a weekend Snowperson (A new way to say Snowman) contest to create the best Snowperson on campus. Arrange some sort of prize for the residents for whoever has the best Snowperson, consider setting it up as a contest between floors or buildings for added competition. You can have categories, such as largest Snowperson, celebrity or faculty look-a-like, Calvin and Hobbes scenes or even Snowanimals.
Naturally at the end of the contest, you might want to serve warm drinks, but it would also be fun to also have a destruct your Snowperson contest at the end of the day.
Some of us aren’t blessed with large snowfalls and might have to resort to a simple Snowangel contest on days with a bit of snow or even resort to creating mini-Snowpeople out of modeling clay or even toilet paper (TP makes a good Paper Machee material.)
But why go through all of the trouble of planning weekend programs if you don’t have to? It is also a very cool thing to get the residents to work together and come up with some new ideas for how to spend weekends. Invite all of your residents to a social at the beginning of the semester and form a Weekend Committee. This committee can come up with as little as one weekend activity per weekend to start. It can be something little like movie nights on Saturday to something larger like a weekend poetry competition.
For a weekend poetry competition, you can come up with an idea for a poem, such as Dining Hall food, and give them 24 hours to complete it. When they turn in that one, they can get the next topic, indigestion is always a logical topic to follow dining hall food, and then have a poetry reading on Sunday night, but only those who wrote over the weekend could present, which may make others interested, especially if there were prizes involved.
The weekends are a great time to get to know residents on a one-to-one basis, and have them learn about you too. Try visiting some of your residents that do stay in the building on weekends, and see what they are up to. Maybe you can get a bunch of those that are left together and head out to a local diner for pie late night for something new to do. In doing this, you have fun, and the residents get to know each other better, which is a great thing to do, because the more independent they grow, the better they are.
Many life-long friendships are forged in college residence halls and apartments, and perhaps when you are getting to know your residents on the weekend, you will meet a life-long friend.
It is a hard thing to get any program to go well on the weekends, but with a little help from your fellow RA’s and your residents, you can have a great program!
Submitted by Brian Eagle, formerly a Resident Assistant at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County