By Kimmie Smith
Resident Advisors, or RAs, exist in every first year dorm, and most other dorms as well. These individuals are generally assigned to individual floors and are upperclassman or graduate students. Their main role is to help you in your transition to college life and ensure that you have someone that you can talk to about issues like your roommate, the girls/guys on the floor, and normal first year anxiety. Below are some common interactions you might have with an RA.
RA's Introduce You to Campus Life
As soon as you have moved in, there are a variety of activities that you are encouraged to participate in to get used to your new environment. The first tends to be your first RA meeting which is very informal. You get to meet the people who live on your floor and you meet your RA. They will explain the rules of the floor from quiet hours (times of the day designated towards study), possible curfews and introductions to the people you live with. They will also explain activities that you may be encouraged to participate in that are floor or dorm specific and how you can become involved within the campus starting with your residence. They also have information about services on campus that you may need such as the Bursars Office, Admissions, etc. Basically, if you have a question these trained RA's can at least lead you in the right direction. They also have learned to mediate any disputes that may occur within the dorm. Their purpose is to be an ear for you and to have an open door policy; however, as a RA they are also required to enforce whatever rules have been set by the university. It is important to get to know them, many people find that their first friend was their RA.
RA's Focus on You and Your Roommate
With many changes that occur once you begin college, the biggest is having a roommate. Whether you have known him/her for years, randomly got selected or had the opportunity to communicate throughout the summer - this new living situation tends to take some time to get used to. The RA not only have a meeting with everyone on your floor but will also visit each room and establish a time where you create rules for one another. He/she may provide some questions that you answer that reflect when you get up and go to bed, when you like to study, how you feel about people spending the night, how long friends can stay over etc. By answering these questions you may come up with an outline of rules specific to your lifestyle and the RA documents this in case of future issues that may arise. He/she is there to mediate between the two of you if there are problems and to generate a solution to create peace. They are the same one to come to when you have issues with people next door or across the hall as well. In many cases it is best to talk with your RA who is trained to handle these issues as opposed to attempting to solve them yourself.
RA's Connect You with Other Segments of Campus Life
Although there are a variety of opportunities with the dorms such as offices that you can hold, opportunities that you may be able to work within your residence hall and more - there are many more activities outside of here as well. Your RA has information or may hold informal meetings where someone from Greek Life, Campus Choirs or other groups that are interested in recruiting new members. This information may stay on their door, bulletin board or be sent via email to keep you aware of these opportunities. In many cases asking your RA about how to get a hold of a particular group will save you time and allow you to meet their deadline for consideration.
RA's Make Sure that You are Safe
To ensure that you enjoy college, it is not only important to make sure that there is harmony in your living situation but that you are aware that you have to take care of yourself. They will introduce you to such offices as the Health Center, workout facilities and more. If an RA suspects that there is activity occuring that may be inappropriate or dangerous for you he/she has the right to investigate the situation. This is based on evidence that he/she may have, information relayed by a member of your floor or your roommate. Information that is provided to him/her is kept confidential so if you feel unsure about a situation, feel free to share your concerns knowing that you will not be named in his/her findings.
RA's Are Available
For some people they have come a great distance to attend college and may find the transition hard, some come from a shorter distance and find it difficult as well and of course there are those that are just overwhelmed. Your RA is there to listen to you. Even though there are many activities, people on your floor and opportunities to meet new people, it is nice to know that there is a consistent face that you can talk to. Much like a sister or a brother if you are feeling lonely or slightly displaced, you know you have someone that you can eat with, chat with as you go between your dorm and the next activity and in general someone that is interested in making sure that you are comfortable.
In short, your RA is someone that you want to know and you want him/her to know you. As you continue you may find that they become your best friend, a source of future recommendations or someone that continues to be available to you as you move through college life. You should not feel embarrassed that you are imposing upon them and they serve as a source of information anytime you have a problem and are unsure where to start. Their suggestions will save you time, worry and will only allow you to continue having an open line of communication.
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