By Andrea James
Many of us have probably considered being a resident assistant at some point, if only briefly. But it’s hard to tell what the job will actually be like without experiencing it for yourself, so I interviewed two current RAs about their experiences. Desiree Breise, a senior majoring in early childhood education, has been an RA for two years in McReynolds, and Alexandra Smith, a senior majoring in marketing and communication, is an RA in McReynolds for the first time this year.
How did you come to be an RA and why?
Desiree: One of the previous RAs recommended me, and I was a desk worker my freshman and sophomore year, so I already kind of had my foot in the door. When the RA asked if I wanted to apply I didn’t at first because I think, I was really nervous about the responsibilities and all of the work that comes with being an RA, but I applied. I did my interview—it was so great, I was so nervous. Then I got the job, and I’ve loved it ever since.
Alexandra: So winter quarter of last year there was kind of a scare we were going to lose one of our RAs because she was going to graduate in the middle of the year, so I heard through the grapevine our dean might be looking for an RA. I thought, “Oh, maybe that would be a thing I would want to try out.” So I thought about it, and I talked to my RA friends, and they told me more about it. I thought, “That’s kind of cool. Not really sure I want that much responsibility in my life.” Then the dean didn’t need an RA at the time because the RA stayed. But, at the end of the year, she did graduate. Then it was application time and I was like, “Do I really want to do this? Do I really want this much responsibility?” I thought about how big an opportunity it is to reach out to all kinds of girls who live in your dorm, and to get to know them, and to know they have a friend and someone who does care about them and who does check in with them—especially the younger girls. It was like, “That’s a really nice thing.” So I applied, and I dressed up, and I did my interview and I got the job.
What are some of the challenges of being an RA?
Desiree: My biggest one is being an RA all the time because you want to be there 100 percent, but you don’t want to give all of yourself. You want to be able to help others, but also help yourself. That balance is one of the hardest things for me because I tend to give, give, give, and then I don’t have anything to give to myself. If I’m not giving anything to myself, then I’m not going to give 100 percent to the girls. That’s the biggest one, or maybe not getting as much sleep as you want. Yeah, definitely less sleep, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Alexandra: I’d definitely say coming out of your shell because I’m an introvert, so I don’t always want to talk to everyone, and that’s okay, but also as an RA you kind of have to, especially at room check. When you’re going into people’s rooms you can’t be cold to them. Also you are there to help, you are there to be a part of something. So it’s kind of hard to make that initial jump into it but after you start, it’s fine.
What are some of the advantages or perks of being an RA?
Desiree: Well, oh my goodness, community—you get to become friends with amazing people; you get to know the girls in the dorm. I look forward to going to the dorm to say hi to all the girls, to greet them, to make them feel at home. Especially the freshmen who feel like they don’t have anybody, but you’re that person for them. That’s really important and I really love that. And truthfully, I feel like I get to have a more spiritual life being an RA. My walk has been very hard. It’s been a struggle, it’s been difficult just questioning and not understanding what I want in my relationship with God, but being an RA has helped me find level ground in regard to my relationship with God.
Alexandra: We went on an RA retreat at Albion and I love Albion. That was really nice. Also just getting close to the girls. It’s getting the opportunity to talk to girls who you may never have spoken to and they would have never spoken to you otherwise.
What advice would you give to students thinking about being RAs?
Desiree: I would say pray about it and, honestly, go for it. It’s such an amazing experience to get to know different people and different stories because I think we stick to what we know and stay pretty close-minded. It’s such a wonderful thing to be open-minded and see and hear a bunch of different things that you get the opportunity to hear because you’re an RA. Be open to getting to know girls (or boys, whichever gender) and hearing their stories. It’s a full-time job; it’s 24-7. So knowing you can handle that, but do it. Do it! It’s worth it! Being an RA is great!
Alexandra: Just apply and see where it takes you. When we were at RA retreat, the deans gave these beautiful, creative testimonies about how they became deans. A lot of them didn’t think it was in the cards for them at all, but the opportunity just kind of revealed itself. It was almost like a divine intervention.
While I’ve never felt the calling to become an RA personally, it was a great experience to see what a blessing the position has been to some of my friends. If being a desk worker or an RA is something you’re interested in, reach out to your RA or dean to find out more.