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Lessons Learned: My Experience as a Resident Assistant

April 6, 2012

When I applied to be a resident assistant (RA) at my school, I had no idea how my life would change. Being an RA has helped me grow personally and professionally, as well as helped give me a name and a leadership role on campus. RAs are not only activity planners and policy enforcers, but are also representatives of one of the largest parts of a college – its Residence Life department.

The RA role is life-changing and is something I’ll never regret becoming involved in, but with any accomplishment, it was not smooth sailing from the start. There were many challenges, and even now as an experienced RA, the job is always teaching me something new.

One of the challenges RAs have is that we “live in our work”. In my experience, I have found that many people do not know that RAs are employees of Residence Life, but in actuality, the RA position is a real job – with the same professional expectations of any internship out there. However, the RA position is contrasting to your average internship because when you’re “off the clock” as an RA, you don’t just punch out your time card and leave the office. RAs are never really off the clock, as we’re constantly expected to be a leader and a role model, even when we aren’t specifically carrying out RA duties and tasks. We live in our office.

At Bentley, to even get the RA job, you have to be an established leader on campus or show initiative toward becoming one. There are limited RA positions available, so it’s often very competitive and the process is challenging in many ways. Time management for RAs is essential because of the high standard that is expected of them in terms of leadership and taking initiative. I, personally, don’t always have the time for everything I want to do because I’m on duty or fulfilling an RA responsibility. It’s important to realize that RAs are booked solid, so if you’re not looking for stressful times and large time management hurdles to overcome, then it may not be for you. It’s hard work and will take priority over other group commitments and social activities.

While there are challenges associated with the RA leadership role, the accomplishment of getting through these obstacles and making a difference in someone else’s life are worth it. I’m proud to be an RA at Bentley because I see the benefits of the position spread out all over my college experience. In training, my knowledge of the campus resources was taken to a heightened level. I had the great opportunities to attend events, a conference, and make new friends due to my RA experiences. Lastly, I was able to form mentor relationships with my supervisors and they have shared wisdom with me that I will never forget and that has helped me grow, as a person. The benefits of the RA role are numerous and the challenges associated with the position provide opportunities for growing and gaining strength personally.

As mentioned above, RAs are at the heart of the campus in that they represent the residential aspect of the college or university. When prospective students come to campus, one of the biggest things they want to see is the dorms. Our dorms and residence halls are kept up as healthy, thriving communities because of the work of the RAs and the Residence Life staff. It’s clear that RAs are leaders for many reasons and are not just “tattle tales” trying to get students in trouble. The RA position has paved the way for many of my other opportunities and some of my best college memories are with members of the Residence Life team.

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Dave Gardner says:

Way to point out the fact that RA’s live the life…Whether on duty or off campus, we represent(ed) the school. I was an RA for 3 years and still had my fair share of fun, while being responsible about my actions the whole time.