Confessions of an RA: The Opas and the Uh-ohs.
Have you ever RAised an eyebrow at a RAdicaly irRAtional relationship? Have you ever arRAnged a RAther extRAvagant event? Do you have an arRAy of really gRAte skills? Do you have RA on the bRAin?
The beginning of spring semester is when most universities begin the selection process for new RAs. While being an RA is a wonderful, life-changing experience, it’s also a lot of responsibility, and not a job that should be, or can be, taken lightly. For anyone considering RA, I’ve taken the time to compile an Opa!/Uh-oh list (because pro-cons went out with 1997) pertaining to the position.
Impact: One of the best rewards of being an RA is the impact you have on the college experiences of so many people. I became an RA because I loved my freshman year, especially because of my residence hall, and wanted to provide incoming freshman with a similar experience. It is a truly wonderful feeling to watch your residence hall transform from a dorm into a community and to know that you were pivotal to that change. Being an RA is all about building and maintaining relationships. You start with 60 strangers from all around the country and turn them into friends and neighbors. It’s hard work, but totally worth the effort.
Friendships: RAs naturally band together. Somewhere between a student and a university official, being an RA puts you in a unique position that most students can’t understand unless they’ve done it themselves. Because of this, RAs tend to gravitate toward one another, standing in solidarity through the joys and miseries of the job. Over the course of one semester as an RA, I’ve become friends with almost all fifty (mostly) upperclassmen RAs that I never would have met, let alone hung out with, before taking the job.
Free Room and Board: This is a big perk, I won’t lie. I save 13,000 dollars (which I most certainly do not have) each year. Though the cash doesn’t cover the work load, it’s better than having to sell your children on Craigslist because you can’t pay your college loans back.
Marriage!: During winter training, my boss reminded us that being an RA is great because it often leads to the joining of co-RAs in marriage. I mean, I don’t know where she’s getting her statistics, but I suppose an RA-RA union could be kinda cool. As a couple, you’d know how to address key problems in your relationships in a healthy manner and timely fashion. You’d also know how to use a stapler in case your spouse ever needed his mouth shut.
The first 6 weeks: Honestly, the first six weeks of being an RA are borderline miserable. I’ll probably die at 65 instead of a healthy 103 because of stress and lack of sleep. It’s really, really challenging to find a good balance between school work, old friends, new RA friends, residents, RA responsibilities, and extracurriculars. I pulled three true all-nighters within the first two weeks of school and picked up a dangerous addiction to coffee. That being said, after the first six weeks, things settle way down. You find a routine, your residents aren’t as needy, and it starts to become truly fun.
The Goldfish Effect: I imagine both the president and my goldfish feel sort of like I do. My position on campus defines who I am, and though RAs never get to know everyone on campus, everyone seems to know who we are. When I introduce myself to people, I say, “Hi, I’m Lindsay!” and they often respond, “Oh yeah, aren’t you an RA?” or even worse, “I know. You wrote me up last weekend.” Though I wear many hats as an RA, the most important one is my University Rep. bowler. If I expect to be able to enforce policy, I can’t be caught breaking it. The position of RA is truly a lifestyle, and not one for those who like their privacy.
Decreased social time: It’s true that I don’t get to spend as much time with my friends as I did last year, though that's partly because I don’t live with them anymore. In some respects, this is the worst con. I miss a lot of inside jokes and am rarely a part of the crazy spontaneous things college kids do when cooped up together for too long. That being said, I would not say that my friendships have suffered. We still meet for meals and hang out regularly; it just takes a bit more effort.
Whether the Opas outweigh the Uh-Ohs is something each person considering RA has to decide for himself. I’ve personally found the experience very rewarding despite all the sacrifices I’ve had to make. Most people, no matter what their career goals, want to make a difference in another person’s life. The position of RA is the perfect vehicle for achieving this end and many more. And hey, you might even get a marriage out of it.
Would you ever be an RA?
Related post: Confessions of an RA: Lists Are Your Friends