A year ago, I didn’t imagine that I would be an RA, but I’ve found it to be a surprisingly fun and rewarding experience.
I’m happy that I don’t have to walk more than 10 feet to find friends and that, unlike in apartment-style living, keeping my door wide open is still socially acceptable. As an RA in Kings Court/English, I have a delightful two-minute walk to campus. And as an RA in a freshman hall, I get to do things like take my floor to Max Brenner for ridiculously tasty desserts — things that my friends in the high rises aren’t so interested in doing with their floormates.
Reading the RA contract, the commitment doesn’t seem to be overwhelming. You need to arrive on campus a few weeks before classes start for training and stay until the building closes at the end of each semester. RAs generally attend weekly meetings and give up one holiday break per year and one weekend per semester to go “on duty” — meaning they must be within a five-minute radius of their building to respond to any emergencies. The most common issues that we tend to address are building-related.
But although the RA/GA application is open to any junior, senior or graduate student with a clean behavioral record, it’s not necessarily the right job for everyone. To be executed well, I’ve found that the job requires much more than what’s on paper.
RAs are expected to foster relationships with a large, random group of students. Not all residents will be forthcoming about problems, but RAs are still expected to help them resolve serious issues when they crop up. This stuff takes patience, good listening skills and time.
Possibly the strangest part about being an RA is that you’re living in the place where you work, meaning one of your neighbors is your boss. It follows that one needs to maintain a certain degree of professionalism, whether it’s at 10 a.m. or 2 a.m.
Finally, it’s a job of many hats and several goals, which sometimes compete with each other. RAs are expected to maintain good relationships with their residents even while acting as rule enforcers. Unsurprisingly, it’s not always easy to balance these varied responsibilities.
Without any pretenses or self-importance, I take the job seriously because there are heavy issues that appear on my doorstep. Interpersonal conflicts arise, as do psychological issues and personal tragedies. I’ve had a few unexpected issues as an RA, but I’ve been able to manage them and have relied on my training and the advice of returning RAs to make the right calls.
If you’ve made it this far into this article, you deserve to hear about the actual compensation for the job: free, on-campus housing for the academic year and a modest meal plan. Personally, those are some fine perks for a job that I already find to be pretty gratifying.
Heather Bromfield is a College senior. She is a staff writer for The Daily Pennsylvanian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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