Last year, I was an RA. It was simultaneously one of the most difficult and fulfilling experiences of my life. I handled emergencies, had dance parties in the lobby, dealt with faulty fire alarms and met amazing people.
Everyday, RAs across campus balance class, jobs, off-campus commitments and more. They work hard everyday to build community and keep an eye out for those around them. RAs deserve thanks and recognition for all they do.
Being an RA isn’t all sunshine and roses. It requires much more behind the scenes work than many know. Before students even step onto campus, there are long days of training followed by longer of decorating. When students arrive on campus, it’s a whirlwind of new and old faces, learning names and stories, and a crash course in planning fun and interesting events. When it comes to being on duty for a building, you never know what you’re going to be up against that night. The first couple of times, being in charge of an entire building is absolutely terrifying. That anxiety often turns into excitement and fun during those long duty nights. I loved being able to welcome people back into the building, hang out with residents and stay up way too late on duty nights.
RAs are rarely out to get people in trouble. When we do have to write people up, it’s more work for us – breaking up a party, writing a detailed report and then trying to rebuild a relationship with a resident who now sees you as the enemy.
When you’re an RA, there’s the delicate balance of taking care of yourself and others. My hall director had to remind me to actually leave the building once in awhile. I didn’t have to be there all the time, always available to my residents, but I felt like I did. It’s hard to take a break from a job that’s tied into the place where you live and spend most of your time.
Do I regret being an RA? No. Did it greatly curtail my social life and personal life? Yes. It was a sacrifice I had to make, to better serve myself and my community.
Why do it then? I can’t speak for others, but for me, there were always moments that outweighed the difficult or frustrating times. Moments when I saw my freshmen making friends and enjoying their first weeks made me feel so proud. When I offered a safe space to listen and some candy to someone, planned fun and interesting events, was greeted by hugs after a long day. When I got to see residents change and grow over the year into mature adults, it was all worth it.
Your RA, hall director and assistant hall director care deeply about you and your community, otherwise they definitely wouldn’t be doing this job. Your residence hall staff is not out to get you (unless it’s to get you to come to that event next week!), they’re there to keep you and your hall mates safe and comfortable.
Next time you think about complaining about your RA, think about the people behind the position. They’re students, just like you, just trying to look out for you and make your year great. So thank them, go to a program and appreciate all the work they do.
Maggie Smet is a senior English major. She can be reached at email@example.com.