Life as an RA

If you know me at all you probably know I’m an RA, and if we’re close I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re sick of hearing about it by now! If that’s the case, you’re out of luck because it will be the focus of this post. At Emmanuel, we just finished our RA hiring process and received our building assignments for next year, so I thought this was the perfect time to write about the job that has shaped my college experience!

My staff this year!

About this post: I’ve learned that blog posts are best when they’re kept brief and relevant, so I’m trying to do so while also painting an accurate picture of what the job is like. To make it more useful for each reader and what they’re looking for, I’ve highlighted information that specifically outlines the job and everything we do in grey. That way people interested in the job can find it, while those who just want to hear a little about my experience can skim over that section.

Background

From the beginning of college, I knew I wanted to pursue a leadership role on campus to get involved and do something meaningful. I loved my RAs, and thought the experiences I had gathered my first year would make me an empathetic and outgoing one myself. I completed the application process and received an alternate position, but eventually found out I had actually been hired! This taught me that anything meant to be in my life will eventually come to me, which has been a valuable lesson.

A staff picture from one of our building-wide programs this past semester!

My experience so far is with first year halls exclusively. It’s definitely been interesting, and buildings of mostly freshmen have a unique energy. It’s awesome because you get to interact with residents a lot and watch them grow, but it can also be like reliving every typical freshman experience vicariously though your residents at once. Freshmen RAs have to be able to answer many questions, help residents adjust, and strive to be a friendly and consistent figure for them! It can include many lockouts and disciplinary situations as people are still learning how to live on campus, but it’s 100% worth it and I’ve loved the communities of residents I’ve had!

How being an RA Defined my College Career

My RA headshot from this past Fall.

Being an RA is something that quickly became part of my identity, especially with being on a small campus where everyone knows each other. It’s particularly immersive because I work in the same place I live, imagine leaving the office to go home and relax at the same office, that is our work environment in a nutshell. It demands RAs to be “on” and keep others at the front of their minds constantly. As intimidating as that may sound, it’s actually a wonderful, character-building experience. Before beginning this role, I thought my job was to be perfect all the time, something that’s unattainable when your personal, academic and work lives are so closely intertwined. In reality, I’ve learned that the best way to be successful in this position is to be authentic, following the rules of course, but also not being afraid to have fun or be open about weaknesses. This is also the best way to build genuine, trusting relationships with residents.

Maybe this was because up until this semester I hated my major, but I’ve said time and time again that this job has prepared me more for the “real world” than any of my classes. Being an RA teaches you how to think on your feet in any situation, no matter how stressful or random. After a few years of training, the bystander effect will never apply to you again either because it becomes instinct to be the first person to help when something is wrong. It also teaches you how to work well with a variety of personality and leadership types and how to resolve conflicts, aka the skills job interviewers CRAVE. As someone from rural New Hampshire, one of the most valuable things I have gained through this position is a better understanding of diversity (racial, sexual, gender, religious, etc.), and how to be a better ally and advocate for others. I’m grateful to have developed knowledge and skills I will use even after I graduate.

That time I drove to New Jersey to be reunited with my favorite RA alumni!

In addition to the lessons learned, boost to my resume, wonderful residents, and the great discount, the most valuable part of my RA experience has been the friends I’ve made because of it (cheesy, right?). Through this role, you have both a building staff and a network of RAs throughout campus that are like-minded and share your values to some extent. It’s so important to be around people going through the same experience as you, and the job allows you to grow close to people you wouldn’t talk to otherwise. Many people in my circle of friends at Emmanuel are also RAs, and I’ve visited and kept in touch with people from the first staff I was on even after they graduated (If you’re reading this, Allison, that’s you!). I couldn’t be more grateful to be surrounded by the people I have befriended through this job.

The Responsibilities (If you’re curious or trying to apply yourself! If not, skip ahead to see what’s coming up for me next year!) *These apply to being an RA at Emmanuel Specifically*

Trainings: Training starts about two weeks before Fall classes start. This includes meeting other RAs, going to presentations, picking schedules, learning how to handle situations, and getting dorms ready for move in. We also have a Winter training a few days before Spring classes start as a refresher and to get the halls ready, in addition to learning some new things as well.

A staff bonding scavenger hunt throughout Boston during training!

Duty: Typically RAs each have a weekday shift that goes from 4:30 that afternoon to 8:30 the next morning and rotating weekend shifts that are 24 hours. During duty we have to stay near campus after 4:30 and stay in our buildings after 8:00 pm until the next morning. People on duty switch off holding a cute flip phone in case residents need anything, and we do rounds throughout the night to make sure everything is ok throughout the building.

Roommate Mediations: Residents meet with RAs if they’re not getting along with their roommate(s). This usually means us giving advice on how they can discuss issues, and if that doesn’t work, we meet with both roommates to have them talk while we mediate. Depending on how it goes, they either stay together or change rooms. The goal is for each resident to find a healthy environment to live in.

Incidents: Incidents can include parties, fights, drugs, medical emergencies, bullying, mental health situations, and Title IX situations, just to name some examples. These can come up while you’re on or off duty. Although they can be hard, there are so many campus resources available to help. The goal is to help everyone involved come to the safest outcome possible.

Keeping things nice: RAs decorate bulletin boards monthly, and door decs are made twice a semester. Additionally, we serve as liaisons between students and facilities by reporting problems with plumbing, furniture, etc.

One of the first bulletin boards I made!

Meetings: RAs have 1:1 meetings with the Residence Director of their building, weekly building staff meetings and monthly Town Halls where all staffs meet together. RAs are also responsible for meeting with and passing on any necessary information to their employers or fellow RAs.

Programs/Events: RAs do programs each semester, which are things like interactive bulletin boards, floor food parties, tag-a-long events, open mic nights, etc. We also help with events Residence Life is involved with, for example, like the Centennial celebration Emmanuel recently had.

Taken from a letter writing program I did at the beginning of this year! Also, gotta love the HUJI app!

Selection: After successfully getting hired, we get to sit on the other side of the table and help with the RA selection process. This includes writing recommendations, helping residents with interview tips, and assisting with group process and individual interviews! It’s always a fun time and kind of feels like being an American Idol judge.

What’s Lies Ahead for Me

This past Friday I found out I’ll be in an upperclassmen hall made primarily for sophomores and juniors! I requested a change to upperclassmen to experience working with a different population and in a slightly different setting, so I’m looking forward to this transition for my senior year/third year of being an RA. I already love the people I will be working with next year and can’t wait to see what this building will be like!

Whether you go to Emmanuel or not, please feel free to ask me more about being a Resident Assistant if you’re interested in applying one day. I love to share my experiences and advice. Thanks for reading!

Love,

Victoria

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