There is an inside joke between us RA’s, that you don’t know what an RA is until you are an RA. Being on both sides of the joke, I can definitely say that this is a true statement. As a resident here, I didn’t really “get” what my RA did. Yes, I would see her make laps around the building some nights, and I knew that she mediated some roommate conflicts, but other than that, I had no clue. So what does a Residential Assistant REALLY do? The answer is: everything that you can possibly imagine.
When I began training in August, I quickly learned that my responsibilities were more of a test of my integrity. Like most jobs, you can get away with procrastinating and giving it 50%, however being an RA, giving it 50% will not only impact you, but your residents. And as an RA you come to recognize the importance and influence you have on your residents. Basically after only a short week, your residents will become your life. That sounds corny, but there will be times where you decide not to go to class because you would rather make a Happy Birthday poster for one of them. True story. (Remember, class is your life, too.)
With time, my residents became who I wanted to be a role model for. Not only did I want to encourage them to get involved on campus, but I wanted them to encourage each other. A lot of people underestimate the influence that an RA can have on his/her floor. I know from experience that the role of an RA is to create an environment that invites their residents to foster relationships. Being an RA doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to befriend residents that aren’t making connections with others, although you can. Being an RA means that you help that resident create connections in other outlets, perhaps a club or a sport on campus.
I know that being an RA has been the biggest influential factor in my growth here at USD. From it I have a better understanding on the college experience, not only from my perspective, but from the perspective of 26 other students. For some students, coming to USD is a dream come true (as for many) and they are trying to soak up all they can from their 4 short years here. For others, USD is a stepping stone for even bigger and brighter career goals. My RA role has allowed me to see that not everyone has the same path in college, and the importance of recognizing that.