As spring semester draws to a close, you realize it’s time to figure out where you’ll live for the upcoming school year.
So what’s it going to be? Renting an apartment with all of your friends and ignoring your weeping bank account?
Or the sub-par supplemental dorm room, which may not be ideal, but is at least affordable?
It’s at this point that some of you smart cookies might snap your fingers as you realize — wait a minute! — RA’s get free room and board!
That settles it.
You’ll become an RA, and your housing woes will be no more.
But there’s a lot more to being an RA than just a free single room.
Being a Resident Assistant is seriously time-consuming, and has the potential to be extremely difficult if you’re not in it for the right reasons:
1. You’re expected to be in your room pretty much all the time.
Excluding the time you spare for classes. And the time you set aside for your extracurricular activities, although you’re not able to get as quite as involved on campus as you might want to, since your responsibility as a Resident Assistant is supposed to be your principal out-of-class activity.
Any activity that could take you away from that needs to be approved by the RA coordinator before you sign up to join.
Besides that, you can’t take any impromptu road trips when you’re supposed to be on shift, and any vacation time needs to be pre-approved by the RA coordinator way in advance.
My own RA here at Penn State, Lia Perlata, keeps a “Where Am I?” board outside of her room, dictating that at any given moment, she could be “here,” “in class,” “in a meeting,” “asleep,” “at the gym,” “out,” or “getting food.”
It’s like the big clock at the Weasleys’ house in Harry Potter, or a not-remotely-technological version of FourSquare. She’s constantly got to be sure we know where she is, in case anyone in the hall needs something.
2. You’re responsible for dealing with any issues your residents face.
Any time that anyone in the hall needs something, they come to Lia, and it’s her job to help them sort through the wreckage.
If you’re not used to this sort of thing, it might be a bit uncomfortable and emotionally draining—depending on the issues, which can range from a roommate conflict, to an academic issue, to a personal difficulty.
RA’s are expected to handle any and every physical or mental crisis thrown their way—depression, drug addiction, eating disorders, alcohol poisoning, whatever it may be, the RA is there to help.
And when you put upwards of 50 kids in a hall together, things are bound to get dramatic. It’s their job to mediate any fights between roommates, yes, even ones like “I hate when she chews her gum so loudly while I’m doing my homework!”
3. You’ll go through a pretty long training process.
Potential RA’s are trained on how to handle conflicts, briefed on campus services like psychological counseling and tutoring in case their students need them, instructed in emergency procedures, and more.
That’s a hefty chunk of the summer spent learning things to help you handle dorm room drama, instead of soaking up the summer sun.
4. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy.
These kids are fresh out of high school, and they’re ready to show it by partying as hard as their freshman bodies will allow them to.
It’s your job to stop it! As tempting as it could be to be the “nice RA” and pretend not to see the handle of cheap vodka those girls are sneaking into their room, you have to write them up.
Even if it’s not something as bad as possession or underage drinking, you’ll have to ensure that everyone is following the rules.
Jessie Nendza, another RA at Penn State, has had to approach people about breaching the dorm’s guest policies, noise violations, and more, and although it’s not a pleasant task, it keeps everybody in line.
For more perks and pitfalls, check out the complete article at HerCampus.com.
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