This past semester has been an enlightening experience, which proved a lesson that has been taught to me all my life. I have always been told not judge a book by its cover and I have always emphasized that saying to others. I am a very open person however, sometimes first impressions are formed based on appearance or other such superficial elements. I, as well as many people, do not take the time to override that opinion by getting to know the person. Now, after twenty years, I am finally going to make it a point to get to know a person before I prejudge them. First impressions are not going to be held over the people I see and meet. Second chances are good when dealing with people that we know, so now I am going to let second chances be the way in which a person forms an image of him or herself in my head. I normally do not judge others, but in this one resident’s case I did and I feel guilty, for my first impression of him was held the same way in the eyes of some of my other staff members.
Move-in time is the chance that RA’s get to form their opinions about residents, for it is usually the first time that one sees and meets their residents. When Jeff, a resident in my house, moved in, he appeared to be dense, just another “typical jock”. (His name has been changed to protect the innocent.) For a month and a half we walked by each other, smiled and said hi but never really sat and talked. Honestly, I never thought he would be the type that a person could actually converse with. Although he is not one of my residents, he came to me innumerable times within his first three days on campus to ask questions that, to me or a returning student, were self explanatory. I never took into account the fact that maybe he, as a first year student, was nervous being in a new and strange place while trying to feel comfortable. Maybe he was just simply trying to learn the rules on campus because he was scared to not comply. Maybe he was just simply trying to make a friend when all his childhood and high school pals were back home or away at college themselves. Maybe he was trying to make conversation and this was the best way he knew how.
My opinion of him changed after he came to me a few weeks into the semester to talk about his directions in college, his girlfriend, his past, present, future, and about me and my life. I found him to be very easy to talk with and very interesting. He has done a lot in his life that I would never have expected him to do. He is caring, intelligent, goal oriented, talented, athletic, friendly, and inquiring. He is far from the unintelligent, self-absorbed jock that I had prejudged him to be.
Our conversation was inspiring and informative for both of us. I got him to think about his educational goals and to talk about his interests. From that I was able to make suggestions as to which areas he may want to look into as a major, minor, or even as a career. He got me to talk about why I have been so stressed out and he helped me to see some things that I do that add to my stress. One example of this is worrying about others as opposed to doing my thing without concern to what others think of me. Because of him I am beginning to look at things differently, and view them in a more positive way. I have always been an optimist but there have also always been things that get me down and I view them in a pessimistic way. He got me to think about what is important and, also, to see that what gets me down is the less important stuff in life. At the end of conversation we both agreed that we would keep in touch, for we each had a way of making the other more content with themselves and more confident in their struggles or confusions. It was nice to have a resident who not only talked about himself and his life, but asked about my life and me. It is nice to know that people care, and at that moment I needed to talk to someone to de-stress myself, as did he. I am glad that I got to know Jeff. Not only did my opinion of him change but I also learned a lesson about myself.
I think that the greatest teachers in life are the ones who learn from their students as well as teach them. A teacher not only professes what he or she knows but, also, he or she acts as guidance and as a resource for others. They are persons who help another find their way in life and help them to grow. I hope that that expression means that because I am becoming a guide and resource for others, helping others to grow and find their place in college, and that because I am learning from the residents, I too am becoming a great teacher. I try to follow by example of my peers in higher positions than I, and I hope that I lead others by positive example so that they may avoid, or at least learn from, the mistakes that I make and I may learn from the mistakes that my peers make. Life is about lessons and I learned one of the most important ones. First impressions are not accurate in that they may be strictly superficial or poorly judged by others. What you see is not always what you get, and thus you must evaluate before you make conclusions. If you can’t judge a book by its cover then you should not judge a person upon looks or appearance. There exists something deeper and more meaningful than just the outside coverings, which act as shields to protect from harm.
Submitted by Meghan Collins, Resident Assistant, Hofstra University