At 19 years old I am responsible for assisting 28 young college students. If they have a question I am here to answer it. From roommate disputes to noise complaints, I handle all of those tasks. If they are sick or need help I will go out of my way to get them what they need. I am their friend, mentor, and role model. I am an RA.
The experience of being an RA has been overall very positive. As with most things in life it has some downfalls, but the positives have outweighed the negatives. Some residents do not want to cooperate or participate, but the majority are very good students that have fun together on the floor.
The main job of a RA is to build a community where students feel comfortable so they can get as much out of their year as possible. The best way to do this is to answer their questions openly and honestly, and to guide them in the right direction if they have a problem. Also, know the resources that are available such as counseling centers, nutritionist, career services, and other helpful services your college might offer.
This is not only my “ job” but it is also where I live. Many of my residents have become my friends who just stop in my room to chitchat or to invite me to events they are attending. My favorite thing to do with residents is go to Gracies, our all-you-can-eat dining commons. We get into some very fun discussions while eating and this is the place I get to know my residents best.
The hardest part of the job is getting residents interested in going to programs that are held. I know for me the hardest is to get them to educational programs about topics such as school, studying, alcohol and sex. They tell me that after going to class all day the last thing they want to do is learn more. I try to choose topics that would interest them by asking around and getting ideas for programs they would want to attend.
The worst part of the RA position is the paperwork that comes along with it. Room condition reports, room changes, and incident reports are just a few of the administrative parts of being an RA. I take them in stride and I do them right away. Procrastination on such paperwork is never a good idea, since it will never magically disappear and you will never get anyone to do it for you.
Make sure that while being an RA you have fun. All work and no fun makes for a miserable year. I have had my best attendance at programs that are fun such as Gingerbread house making/decorating at Christmas, a sign language program in the fall, pumpkin picking, floor dinners, and a healthy eating on campus program.
The most important thing to remember: Be there for your residents. Everyone is busy so do not think it is essential to be on the floor all the time, but do not leave for long periods of the day. The resident feedback on my RA evaluations this year was that they wanted me in my room more. I took that feedback seriously and am trying to arrange my schedule so I can respond to this need in the future.
The RA position can teach you and help you improve on important skills that are needed in everyday life. It sure has for me. Because of being an RA I have learned conflict resolution, stress control, time management, listening and communication skills.
Being an RA is what you make of it. If you go into the job with a negative attitude you will get nothing positive out of it. My advice is to go in with an open mind and be prepared for anything. Remember that every student is different and will need you in a different way. Some may not need you at all.
Just remember…Be yourself and have fun!
Submitted by Marci Savage, Resident Advisor, Rochester Institute of Technology