ASSISTANT A&E EDITOR
About a year ago now, I received an email from the assistant director of housing at Sacred Heart and immediately threw my phone across the room to avoid reading the contents. I had applied to be a Resident Success Assistant and was waiting for this email for months, but suddenly I couldn’t bear to know the answer to the question I had done my best not to think about: did I get the job?
I spent my spring semester abroad in Dingle, Ireland, last year, so I had applied to be an RSA months ago and gone through the selection process with a small group of people who were going abroad as well. The challenge was to stand out not only when I applied, but enough that they would remember me when over 100 more people applied for the position in February.
My friend, who had been an RSA herself since the fall and was very confused at the fact that I had just chucked my glass phone across our living room, convinced me to finally read the email.
I got the job and would be working with freshmen, and I could not be more grateful for the experience. But I would be lying if I said this first year has been what I expected on the day I accepted the position.
You expect to feel like you’re helping people right away, and you do a little during those first few days when residents are experiencing the culture shock of moving to college. But then the excitement dies down, and you don’t truly begin to see the difference you’re making until later – for me it wasn’t until near the very end of my first semester as an RSA. To be there for 36 freshmen is emotionally draining on top of keeping up with life as a student, especially when you realize you won’t see instant results of your efforts to help.
But then there are days where a resident who decides to transfer will come to you and say you’re a great RSA, and thank you for being so understanding through a difficult decision. There are days where a resident will come sit on the floor with you and vent about how they don’t know if they fit in or they’re not sure of their future, and you get to tell them that they are completely normal and watch them grow into a leader. There will be a resident who applies for the RSA job themselves and tells you they don’t know if they can be as outgoing as you, and you can’t help but laugh and tell them they are going to be just fine, because you never could have seen yourself being as confident as you’ve become in this role.
Then there are duty nights, where sometimes nothing happens and other times you’ll watch the sunrise as you submit an incident report. Some days you’ll find yourself doing some odd job around your building that definitely falls under the “other duties as assigned” category, as my Residence Hall Director says.
If you’re thinking about becoming an RSA, know that it will not be easy and there will be days you just don’t feel like doing it. There are a lot of sleepless nights involved making bulletin boards until 2 a.m. or handling an incident on duty, but those are the nights you won’t forget. You should know that living in a dorm when most of your friends live off-campus can feel isolating, but you will learn to rely on a staff made up of some of the best people you’ll ever meet. There might be times where you miss out on something to talk to a resident, but it helps them get through another day. You should know that people will probably call you a nark, but you get over that quick. Everything that makes this job difficult is what makes it worth it. The people skills, time management, confrontation ability, creativity and everything else you learn as an RSA all transfer easily to jobs or internships. But this is more than just a job; the people you meet are what will really change your life.