By Anna Meyer
Everyone can agree that the life of a college student can be extremely stressful. Just look at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, everywhere you look there’s a post, a picture, a meme, that tells the poor life of a college kid. It’d be nice to have some help and comfort once in awhile.
According to Residential Assistant (RA) Elizabeth Heitman, that’s where RA’s come in.
“Mainly, in my mind, we’re there to support the residents. We’re there just to be a friend to the residents and help them with anything they need,” she said.
During the course of this month and the next, Residential Life coordinators Renee Tatge and Dean Manthe will be looking to hire new RA’s for the 2017-2018 school year.
According to Tatge, they are looking for students who understand not only the unique opportunities involved, but the commitment that comes with it.
“RA’s need to be friendly and outgoing while also being responsible and committed to supporting Bethany’s mission,” Tatge said. “Creating a fun yet safe res hall environment takes time and effort and you may have to make unpopular decisions.”
An RA is required to have a few more responsibilities than to just be a friend. They are required to sit at the RA desk in the residence halls once a week and every few weekends during the evening. They monitor activity in the dorms by walking around the halls during visitation hours, and make sure everyone is abiding by the campus and residential life rules.
They also are required to host “wing activities,” about three or four per semester, which are meant to draw the people in the dorm together.
“The activities are for the residents,” Heitman said. “We’re not just doing it because we have to, we really try to come up with ideas that people will enjoy and want to come to.”
RA’s also are there to serve as a go-between between higher authorities and students. Whether that’s a maintenance problem that the RA’s will take care of, or acting as a friend (one would rather talk to a friend about some situations than the dean), the RA’s act as a mediator.
As a role model for other students, being an RA is a job that you really never go off the clock from, and that’s something to be aware of.
“Residents look up to you a lot more than you’d think,” Heitman said. “It’s like you’re never off the clock, you always have to be making good choices. It would look pretty hypocritical if you didn’t follow the rules, but you told the residents to.”
Being an RA is also not always fun and games, RA Tomas Phan notes, especially when you have to enforce the rules and face tough situations.
“Mostly likely, if you become an RA, you will have to take actions when you encounter [difficult] situations,” Phan said. “Also, it’s your duty, or job to get to know people, but because you’re an RA it can be hard for you. Some people already have a picture in their mind of an RA being a bad person, because they have to enforce the rules, so sometimes it’s hard to reach out to them.”
Phan reminds future RA’s that they’re not alone, however.
“An important thing an RA has to remember is that you are not by yourself,” Phan said. “Our RA training and a group kayaking trip we took really showed me that you have other people you can rely on. You have people who have troubles that come to you because you’re their RA, but what if you’re the person who is struggling? I have my RA colleagues that I can go to and trust them.”
Being an RA does have a few added perks, however. You receive money to cover room and board, a parking pass and a monthly stipend. Added to those benefits, you grow on a personal level.
“It gives you a lot of life experience, and it looks good on a resume,” Heitman said. “It pushes me to be social and make connections. At the same time you’re helping everybody else, it really develops you as a person as well, because you work on your social skills and being a good role model.”
“Being an RA is beneficial because it helps you to grow as a person,” Phan said. “This job gives you responsibilities that maybe you’ve never had before, and it helps you to build your character, to become a better leader and a better person in general.”
Tatge agrees that being an RA can be a very positive experience.
“Being an RA can be very rewarding,” Tatge said. “You have a unique opportunity to positively affect the lives of younger students, not to mention being an RA is a resume builder and knocks down your room and board costs.”
A word of advice Heitman has to share with future RA’s is: “If you’re thinking about applying, don’t do it for you, know that you are there to serve the residents.”