Everyone who has ever lived in a residence hall has worked with a resident adviser, more commonly known as a RA. They are the people that residents turn to when they have roommate drama, need a condom at the last minute or just want someone to talk to about how college is going.
Being an RA can mean a lot more than what immediately comes to mind, sophomore Shane Nichols, a peer learning assistant at Mark Twain Hall, said. A peer learning assistant is an RA that also leads a Freshman Interest Group class.
“Being an RA, especially in a dorm with freshmen, means we are often students’ first introduction to college life,” Nichols said. “We show them activities they can join or events they can go to. In a way, we act as counselors.”
For many students, living in a residence hall is their first time living on their own, so they are constantly learning. Those learning experiences include figuring out how to do laundry, how to wake up for class without their mom or how to tackle other adulting tasks. Senior Sally Heil, an RA at Respect Hall, says it’s often up to the RAs to teach residents how to take these important next steps.
“I’ve been on call before and have had to help freshmen out in the kitchen,” Heil said. “It’s always fun because you watch these guys really learn how to do all of these things they need to do to just live life as a fully functioning adult.”
Many people associate their RA as being a party pooper or someone who just wants to catch them drinking underage. But for sophomore Adam Woodward, an RA-PLA at Discovery Hall, they just want to build connections with their residents and make sure they are safe and thriving in college.
“I really try my best not to be the bad guy,” Woodward said. “As long as my residents aren’t doing anything stupid, I try not to get them in trouble. I feel like it’s my job to make sure they are all doing okay, especially if I don’t see them around all of that much.”
Students become RAs for all kinds of reasons, not solely because they get free room and board. For instance, Woodward became an RA to get to know other residents better.
“When you’re an RA, you become invested in your residents’ lives,” Woodward said. “You really do want them to do well. You want to be someone they can turn to, and you try your best to be a resource to them.”
Another reason being an RA is an impactful experience for many is the friendships they make with other RAs. Heil said they need to have each other’s backs in all kinds of situations, whether it be a roommate screaming match or a fire drill.
“Some of the best friends I’ve made in college are because I’ve been an RA,” Heil said. “Between the training we go through before school starts, our weekly meetings and just generally spending a lot of time together, you can’t help but love the people on your team.”
Edited by Alexandra Sharp | firstname.lastname@example.org