I’ve put off this post for a while. Full disclosure, I questioned whether I should even write it. I wanted to share about being a Resident Assistant, but I’ve actually gotten in trouble before from my former bosses for speaking about my experience in a slightly negative light. But then, I was thinking, and I realized I don’t work for them anymore, and my experience was real and my own, and therefore I have the agency to share it if I want to. Before I begin, I would like to say that my former boss, when reprimanding me for commenting on a bad work experience I had my first year as an RA, said “what if a future employer saw that? They’d be scared you would just post about any bad experience on your blog.” To that, after months of reflection, I say that had the office handled the problem appropriately and in a more validating way, I likely wouldn’t have felt compelled to speak out publicly. All I did was write a sentence about how I had a bad prior experience, and the feelings that someone made me feel, and that I had taken action to change my situation and was excited about it. I didn’t think it was wrong to say, and still do not. And in the future, I will not blog about drama at the work place. I try to be authentic and genuine when I blog, and so sharing something that hugely and negatively impacted a year of my college career felt like it deserved a sentence on this platform, but apparently I was wrong. Anyway, I’m not here to rant, but rather share the pros and cons of the RA experience that I had at during my undergraduate years.
Before I jump right in, I should probably explain the unique RA position that SMC has. Everyone I know that goes to a state college or really large college says they hardly see their RA. At schools of that size the RA role is to be utilized if they are in desperate need of help, have a roommate issue, or are locked out, but otherwise RA/Resident interaction is limited. At SMC, the RA is expected to be in their room, door open from 8:30 pm to 11 pm during the week and 8:30 pm to 1 am on weekends. We have to have events (4 social, 4 education per semester), and interact a TON with residents. The job is 24-7. Once you become an RA, you never stop being an RA. Even know, days away from beginning law school, I reference my RA experience at least once a week, often more.
Okay, so think of this position as overwhelming, draining, and 24-7, but also rewarding, fun most of the time, and a way to meet a ton of awesome people you never would have met otherwise.
PRO: You will learn patience and leadership skills you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.
In the RA role, you have to deal with people’s problems. You have to be a great role model, and listener, and help people. You have to try to find solutions to their problems, and you have to be really proactive. You’re often on your own, handling situations that are sometimes extreme or scary (suicidal student, pregnancy scare, sexual assault), and you have to figure out the best way to handle it. Some situations can be very by the book, but sometimes in the moment you don’t know what to do. I once was almost physically assaulted by an intoxicated student. Scary stuff that you’re not exactly trained for. However, I feel like a grew a ton professionally and personally as a result of holding the position.
CON: You will be held to a higher standard than everyone else.
You may read that and wonder why I put it as a con. Well, when you’re held to a really high standard, you are basically under a microscope. This is okay for a while, or if you’re perfect and never want to live your life. When I was a sophomore applying for the position, I didn’t go out, I was overly studious, and I was a rule follower to no end. However, once I got the position, I quickly learned that people change, including myself. And honestly, I think being an RA changed me more than anything. I become tired of having to enforce rules everyday like an overbearing parent. I felt guilty telling people not to have fun and enjoy college. I started feeling self conscious as residents who hardly knew me decided they didn’t like me. But the moment I knew the position may not be the perfect fit for me like i had once thought, came within two months of the beginning of my senior year. I waited until I was 21 to drink, and I was 21 just in time for senior year. A year that should be filled with friends, memories, lasts, etc. But then, I went out with friends, we took a photo, and each of us posted it on a social media platform. However, I alone was called in because I have a blog, and the photo found it’s way onto my blog because I share my life and college experience. In the photo, everyone was 21, we were all coherent, and everyone in the photo agreed it was an okay photo to post. Honestly, the photo was less risque than 90% of ads for cheeseburgers. But we were reprimanded. Reprimanded for drinking of age, reprimanded for enjoying our last year of college, reprimanded because our residents might see it and think of us differently. If there’s one thing I can say, however, it’s that RAs who show themselves as humans with flaws or just human and understanding are far more successful and are better able to connect with residents than RAs who present themselves as error-free robots. What it really comes down to is respect, never lose the respect of your residents, but don’t treat them like horrible people for partaking in aspects of college.
PRO: Even though you are supposed to have an affect on your residents lives, they will positively affect yours as well!
The best feeling in the world is when a resident thanks you, and tells you that in some way you made a difference in their year. But the thing is, I often want to tell my residents that they had an equally great impact on me. I loved getting to know them, I appreciated the nights of duty where they hung out with me, I loved when they showed up to events I planned, and I look forward to watching them grow even more in the rest of their college career. Residents can become your friends, and often many do, staying in touch with me even after I’m no longer their RA. Residents make this job enjoyable, even the difficult ones. No matter who you have on your floor, chances are they will have an impact on you.
CON: Some residents will hate you.
You know, in everyday life there are people who don’t like others. There are people who decide they dislike someone. When you have 40+ girls on a floor, chances are your personality won’t mesh perfectly with everyone, but as an RA it’s your responsibility to be kind and reach out to everyone. Typically, difficult residents were easy to deal with because I would, as Selena Gomez says, try to kill ’em with kindness. However, some residents will hate you for writing them up, for handling things according to protocol, or for handling things in a way counter to what they want (i.e., according to protocol but they don’t get their way). I know hate may seem like a strong word, but honestly, it’s not too strong. This is part of the job. You have to have a thick skin, and keep your head up. This isn’t always easy, seeing as some residents are more vicious than others.
PRO: Your fellow RAs are going to become your family. Not all of them, but some of them!
Through the RA role, I found some of my closest friends. The RA Role is strenuous and complicated, and only those who hold the position can really empathize with your frustrations, limited schedule, and crazy outbursts of “I need a drink!”
CON: You will likely lose friends.
When I became an RA, I didn’t realize how 24-7 the job would be. I thought I would throw events when I was on duty, be on duty a couple times a week, and then have the rest of time to continue my life as usual. I was wrong. I got really busy, and after about the fourth time of not being able to go out, people stop asking. Also, some people just get tired of having an RA as a friend, and stop trying to maintain the friendship. This is a con, because it’s never good to lose people, but its also kind of like cutting the fat. The people by your side at the end of the RA role are the real MVPs in your life for the long haul.
PRO: You will learn time management like never before.
Being an RA, you will have so many things going on at once, so you become an expert of keeping track of every hour. You will likely become more aware of your time, and how precious it is. You will likely begin scheduling free time and friend time. It can be difficult, but being able to handle a crazy schedule will likely be useful in the future.
CON: It may affect your ability to be a great student.
Some of my worst semesters in college occurred when I was a RA. I was always a student, and I took my studies very seriously. Being an RA, though, I became drained, had less time to do homework.I never felt ahead on schoolwork. I would tell people if I was ahead on my classes, I was behind as an RA, and if I was ahead on being an RA, I was behind on being a good student. I could never find the balance to continue being a straight-A student and a great RA. Maybe it’s because my heart wasn’t fully in both, but it was a struggle, and I missed being able to focus seriously on my studies. My burn out came early spring semester of senior year, and I could hardly care about anything but trying to enjoy the end of college.
Some finals thoughts about the role:
I am thankful for my time as a RA. I wouldn’t change my path if I could. I am thankful for the people who made the position all the great things it was, and I have forgotten the things that made me question why I even became a RA. However, you will realize that not everyone does the job for the right reasons, some people do the bare minimum or less and some people go above and beyond. Figure out the RA you want to be, and go for it. Do not let people’s expectations or demands defeat you. Realize that if your residents like you, and you’re doing what’s required, you’re doing okay. Remember that a positive experience is what you want to give residents, but you don’t need to give them the whole world. Never let the position make you less of a student or less dedicated to your other passions. Do not let the position ruin your experience. You’re going to spend SO much time making a great experience for the residents, but don’t let that detract and minimize the fun and experience you get to have. If you know your bosses play favorites, just be un-apologetically yourself and do your best. You got the job for a reason, so focus on your residents and forget the bullsh*t. So, there you have a good percentage of my thoughts about the RA role. Sure, I have other thoughts, but none I’m willing to share right now. If you have questions about anything in the post, please comment and I will answer them as best I can!