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After accepting a position as an RA (resident advisor) I have learned a few things about humanity.
The job requires that you keep residents safe and the building under control. This means; busting underage drinking, keeping the volume at a reasonable level, making sure trash goes down to the trash room, putting in requests for broken things, calling campus safety, the list is pretty long.
As an RA on a small college campus I have learned a few things:
1) Every building has it's own personality.
This is especially true at my small school. Every building has a different community of people. In some schools/places it's stronger than others, but in my dorm it's especially true.
Some dorms are upperclassmen dorms where some students live for years. The dorm becomes their home.
My school is unique because we have a lot of transfer and international student who don't ever go home. These students will live on campus for years at a time.
Coming in as a new RA, I found I need to have respect for the time people have put into this building. This is their home, their community.
My role is to ensure safety of residents, not to wield power over people.
2) People will hate you.
That being said, you can't just let people walk all over you.
RA's act as the cops of the dorm. We have to be the bad guy in a lot of situations. People will hate you for asking common courtesy of them.
Sadly, we don't make the rules, but we do ask that you follow them.
Dorms house tons of people, not just you. That's what I try to remember whenever I bring down the hammer. While you are having a loud party in your room someone might be trying to sleep next door.
I believe in creating an environment that is conducive to everyone.
And frankly it doesn’t bother me if people don't like me. I wouldn't ask you to do anything that I wouldn't be willing to do myself.
3) Making friends can be a slippery slope.
Not saying making friends is ever a bad thing, but you have to be careful. Once you are friends with someone there is a different set of expectations.
If you cut breaks for some people, others will start to notice. Playing favorites is a dangerous game. Busting some people and not others will cause people to lose respect for you.
If you do make friends with your residents make sure you are doing your job. When you are on duty you're responsible for the building on behalf of the school. Don't let a personal relationship get in the way of your job.
*****ABOVE ALL ELSE DON’T SLEEP WITH A RESIDENT!!!!
Never get involved sexually with a resident. It will backfire. As an authority figure of the building you have to maintain a certain image. Sleeping with a resident can undermine your credibility and it's sleazy.
4) People will come to you with every problem, big and small.
I feel like a broken record, but it's true—as an authority figure people will come to you. Although, it's more prevalent in underclassmen dorms, residents will come to you with their problems.
Whether it’s a minor roommate squabble or someone coming-out to you, it all happens.
The best thing you can do is listen. Most people aren’t looking for you to solve their problems they just need someone to listen.
I have had residents come to me mid-emotional breakdown. I had someone tell me that their dad lost his job and she didn't know how she was going to afford school. Everyone is battling something you have no idea about. It's important to be there for them.
If you aren't ready to help people with petty B.S. or be a shoulder to cry on this gig isn't for you.
5) You won't have as much power as you think you do.
Before I applied to be an RA I thought that RA's could basically do and say whatever they wanted and get away with it—wrong again.
As an RA, we have less power than I would have thought. We have the ability to fine people for specific things, and we can call campus safety to bust people. Other than confiscating certain items (candles, alcohol, other prohibited items) we can't do much.
We rely on the hope that people will act appropriately and do the right thing.
Although, we can bring you up to higher disciplinary boards. There is a lack of measure we can personally take against our residents.
6) People know who you are.
If you're a person who likes to fly under the radar you can kiss that freedom goodbye.
RA's live in a fishbowl. Depending on your duty schedule and lifestyle residents have a lot of access to your life.
In my building, there are three RA's. We each take one to two weekends a month and one to two days a week. On a weekday, we are required to be in our room with the door open from 9 PM to midnight. On a weekend, Friday to Sunday, we are on duty from 9 PM to 2 AM.
Expect people to know who you are and what you look like.
If you are a person that goes out on the weekends and parties at your college, people will recognize you there. Young residents especially will be quick to call you out.
"Hey look, that's my RA"
Happens all the time. Be ready.
This just means you have to be careful about your behavior. It's definitely okay to go out if you want to, just don't do anything that you wouldn't want your residents to see.
The moral of the story is that being an RA is actually a lot of hard work. It's emotionally taxing, people are difficult to work with, and you have to be the bad guy, but it's a great job.
If you are good at dealing with people, then you'll do fine. It's about sticking to your gut and being the best friend, mentor, or parent you can be for your residents.
**If you can think of anything else let me know**
Thanks for the read.