I was walking back to my room the other night when I came across this little delight in the hallway:
Whoever came up with this idea deserves a round of applause. Having paid attention to the “flyer” scene on campus, I consider this call-to-action one of the smartest yet. However, I do not intend to discuss a flyer design here. Neither am I doing promotion for our Residential Life Office (they have already reached out to every nook and cranny). I am writing to share my personal thoughts about the one year working as a Resident Assistant (RA). Should you be interested in the job at one point, I hope this will help to inform your decision.
Resident Assistant is a STRESSful position.
Yes, that was a stressed stress. Remember how some applications require you to provide a list of extracurricular activities, with numerical indicators of involvement level (e.g. Math club, 5 hours/week)? So how do we quantify the "involvement" of an RA? Twenty hours a week? No, then what about forty? Not even close. An average RA works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and more than thirty weeks a year. And that is on top of being a full-time student! An RA does not simply clock in and clock out, but has to constantly maintain the image and responsibilities of their position.
Becoming an RA means sacrificing tremendous time. Roughly once a week you would have duty, during which you have to do rounds and cannot leave your respective area for twelve hours straight (from 8 pm to 8 am). Duty rounds would generally come one-after-another, leaving you with thirty-minute gaps where you can hardly accomplish anything. And suppose you run into an incident while still having a paper due the next day? I know who will be up at three o’clock tonight.
Other responsibilities include programming (generally two activities every month), bulletin board and residence hall decoration, participation in monthly trainings and weekly meetings, and - most often - community building (such as spending time with your residents, solving conflicts). On the bright side, you would be constantly improving your time management and resistance to stress, and will acquire various other skills and knowledge throughout the process.
You will have to do jobs that you dislike
If you are not artsy crafty? Yay, you have to create a bulletin board from scratch every month, and also don’t forget about the 20+ nametags for your residents.
If you are an introvert? Open your door and let people walk in!
If you enjoy hanging out late with friends? Make sure you get back before your “curfew” time.
If you prefer to be spontaneous? Well, fill out this planning form and turn it in at least five days before any event.
If you are not good at confronting people? Dear, that is your job now.
Are you starting to feel uncomfortable? Well that is completely natural, since this job will force you nothing but to step out of your comfort zone. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but all the responsibilities of a Resident Assistant are guaranteed to hit some of your soft spots.
If you are still up for the challenge? The good news is that you will get so much better at everything in the end.
The job makes your life a mess
The beginning of every month
Being an RA means constantly trying to maintain balance. Once in a while, you will find yourself sleep-deprived from keeping up with all your work (including jobs, classes, personal issues…). Yet an RA is never alone. The Residential Life staff – your supervisors and fellow RAs – will be there to listen and support you, or some will at least cry with you. Eventually the struggle ends and you get some good rest, like how the sun rises again by morning. A feeling of joy and accomplishment will take over.
If you have reached this point, thank you for your patience and interest. Resident Assistant was a life-changing student position for me. It challenged me to be more open-minded, more prepared, and more competent. It allowed me to make a difference and to facilitate changes in my community. It threw me into tension and chaos, just so I could rebound stronger than ever, and further than ever.
The sense of community created by Lycoming College's Resident Assistants is a great environment to pursue an education. Visit our campus to find out for yourself!