It’s that time of year, when students are applying to be residence assistants (RAs) and executive members for the following academic year. I remember freaking out last year about the application, the interview and waiting not-so patiently for my email from Student Life to tell me if I would become Harper Hall’s Assistant Don (AD). Now that I have gone through most of the year as AD, I feel like I have experienced enough to give some helpful advice to incoming RAs.
Dear future RAs,
The worst part about the job is having to discipline your friends, but remember that your work has to come first! Keeping residents safe is a priority, so don’t feel as though you are being an asshole for telling your friends to follow the rules. If your friends are really your friends, they will not make your job more difficult than it has to be.
Don’t take everything personally, even if people try to make it personal. People will criticize you, tell you that you are not doing your job right, or sometimes (in my case) call you a “bitch” because you have to be the hard-ass who enforces the rules. Usually, the people who tell you that you are not doing your job right are the same ones who have no experience as an RA. The people who call you names or undermine your authority are the people who probably should not be living in a residence building because they think all the rules are stupid. Take it as a compliment if someone tries to make you feel bad about doing your job, because it probably means you are doing it right!
Your nose will become as accurate as a bloodhound’s by fall reading week, at least in my experience. You will convince yourself that someone in your building has a pet skunk because all you will smell is marijuana. This new ability is a gift, but you will also suffer from smelling the compost inside Jennings as if it is right next to you.
Always volunteer to work at house parties for other residences. Not only are you off duty by midnight, but experiencing a different house atmosphere is refreshing! It is good to spend time out of your building, and volunteering at house parties tends to be less stressful than a regular duty – not to mention, the house often offers you pizza or garlic fingers once the party is done!
Always take time for yourself. You are not tied to your residence, so do not feel as though you have to be there every weekend or work every night there is a big party. It’s hard to do your job if you are always stressed, have people knocking on your door, or have to be 100 per cent on your game. You come first!
I was fortunate that a lot of my team members were already close friends before starting the job, but I have developed some great friendships with RAs I hardly interacted with before this year. The team you work with will act as a support system for the school, the house and you.
I found that I needed other RAs this year more than I did last year as a support system. My team has helped me with my mental health and they have done an amazing job looking out for my well-being. I could not imagine doing this job without the support system I have and I will always be grateful that they were with me for this experience.