Imagine the feeling of being on 3 a.m. rounds on a Thursday night and finding a full load of furniture in the residence hall elevator, knowing that you have to stay up another hour to fill out an incident report and log the situation before you go to bed; and to top it off, you have a quiz in the morning. As a sophomore at Indiana University, this was just the beginning of my experience as a R.A. However, there’s a lot more to being an R.A. than getting people in trouble and walking around the building.
Looking back on my freshman year, I was skeptical about my ability to handle the difficult adjustment of moving away from home to a strange place where I knew almost no one and had to take care of myself. I did not know my roommate, or anyone in the building for that matter, and was feeling overwhelmed as I unpacked my life into my new home, a 12-foot by 12-foot cement box with cheap furniture.
Then, my R.A. knocked on the door. He made me feel welcome and introduced me to several of my floor mates.
Looking back on this defining day, I realized how much my R.A.’s reassuring words affected my attitude toward living in a building with 500 college freshmen. Over the course of the year, I decided this was something that I wanted to do.
Fast forward to two weeks before fall semester ’07 when I arrived back at school for R.A. training. Prior to this moment, beyond being in charge of 50 freshmen on a co-ed floor, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
As training began, we learned to respond to incidents in a politically correct, open-minded and diversity-focused manner. I quickly realized that there was a lot more to being an R.A. than just being responsible for the students living on my floor and aiding in their adjustment into the college world. I was going be challenged in ways that I had not anticipated and began to feel the same panic as I did moving into my freshman dorm room.
However, my nerves were calmed as the year progressed, and I found myself filling the role nicely. There were countless sleepless nights when I stayed up talking to a girl fighting anorexia or someone who was feeling homesick.
There was also the “how to cook macaroni and cheese” lessons, the sex education programs, the video game tournaments. There were the late night talks about responsible drinking habits and, of course, the counseling after someone got into trouble.
Fast forward to move out day at the end of the year, when the R.A.’s began their own check out process. I was not leaving the building the same person who checked in. There were many areas of my personality that were stretched and exercised in order to become a better person.
The culmination of all the struggles and frustrations of being an R.A., as well as the rewarding feelings that come with knowing I personally touched someone’s life, made being an R.A. one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life.
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