Second semester is in full swing and that means Resident Assistant hiring is finishing. As I have been going through my first year as a RA in Bergstrom Hall, there have been many lessons that have helped me to be successful in this position. For those who are applying to be a RA or are going to be one next year, here are some tips that I have to achieve:
Be creative with your door decs and bulletin boards. These apparent small gestures towards residents, actually go a long way (especially with first-years) to building community. Residents, even if they do not say it, tend to appreciate you putting in the effort to make these little trinkets.
Have an attitude of open-mindedness and honesty. You will meet many different people as a RA and it is essential to have a clear mind when meeting them. Do not go into conversations or interactions with staff members or residents with any judgements or past altercations affecting you. This will set you up to build a poor rapport with the people you will be seeing all year. However, in addition to this, a RA must be honest. You will have situations where honesty is the best option (such as with conflicts or write ups) and many residents will just appreciate this. It is never to sugar coat problems or conflicts because it will never improve situations.
Be prepared to shoulder your own stress, as well as others. Imagine you are an RA in your first semester. You are a student with classes, homework, and tests piling up. But, when you wake up one morning, you notice that two of your residents email you saying that they have roommate conflicts and need to meet. After that, you realize that you need to find time to plan a program and to meet with your staff. And even after all that, you have to do laundry and to find time to work on club activities as well. Where in this do you find time for yourself? This is a big challenge for RAs and it is essential that you develop ways to destress. You will have a lot more stress, especially because sometimes you take the stress of your residents as well. Find that time to treat yourself!
See residents on an equal level. Just because you are a RA does not make you superior to your residents. Recognize that yourself and your residents are all students. This will make you connect more with them and will make everyone feel more comfortable. No one likes to be looked down upon.
Make it fun! Being an RA is an incredible opportunity and is only as rewarding as you make it. Be silly, be creative, and be motivated to make your residents and yourself have the best living environment!