The RA Experience: What to Expect
Applying to be an RA is one of the best risks that I have taken. I was in London for FYSAE (First Year Study Abroad Experience) and for some reason the email for the application had not been sent to anyone studying abroad. I knew that applications were supposed to be emailed to everyone soon so I reached out to my RA from my first semester on campus. He was confused why I had not received the application and forwarded it to me anyway. Even though I filled out the application that day, because of the delay, it was a day late. The housing department still accepted my interview and I made sure to mention the issue during the meeting with hopes that it would not affect my application. Somehow, I managed to secure an acceptance letter while I was on the bus to Scotland in the middle of the night.
The First Days
I was very excited, but I was definitely not fully aware of what I was getting myself into. The first thing you experience as a new RA is fall RA training. We had to move in on August 7, 2022, for training to start on August 8. Training was almost two weeks of sitting in the Castle Mirror Room listening to different departments on campus lecture about how we can best support our residents. Training was long, which made it hard. We were all tired trying to stay up at night after training to finish our door tags and bulletin boards (see above) so that they were ready for when the fall athletes moved back onto campus a week earlier than everyone else. RA training is also full of stories from past RAs who have been through hard resident situations and have learned from it. We talk about these stories to learn from them, but for new RAs who have never had to deal with resident problems, some of these stories can be frightening.
Even after training, we didn’t really know what to expect. Training is definitely helpful, being an RA is really a job where you learn the most by doing. It is also a job where every RA has a different experience. Each RA experience is truly defined by the type of people who end up on your floor. Some RA’s have floors where everyone is quiet and keeps to themselves, while others have floors full of friends that all hang out in the hallway together in the evening, and if you are really unlucky, you end up with a floor of people who don’t get along with each other.
What You Can Learn
Regardless of the floor you live on or the experience you have, being an RA teaches you things you might not get from a standard education. You learn how to manage all of your behind-the-scenes RA assignments that your residents probably don’t even know about. You learn how to put on events that you can only hope people will show up to. You learn patience and compassion when supporting residents though difficult moments. As an RA, you develop the skills to set boundaries with your residents that can translate into your everyday life. If the job is right for you, cultivating a welcoming community and knowing that you are always there for your residents if they need it can be incredibly rewarding, especially when your residents get along and trust you. The leadership experience you gain in this position is also invaluable and transferable to any position you may have after your time here at Arcadia.
Taking the Risk
Overall, if you are hardworking, care about community, and are willing to accept a possible challenge, being an RA could be for you. RA’s are also compensated with free student housing, but if that is your only motivation for the job, not only is it not a good fit for you, you will also not have a good time doing it. If it sounds like something you might like, I encourage you to talk to your RA about it. You won’t regret it (most likely) and you will definitely walk out of it with something.