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Life as a College Residence Advisor – So Much More than Just Enforcing Rules 

July 15, 2015

IMG_3791Every university student that has ever lived in a dorm has had the shared experience of living under the watch of a residence advisor. With the thousands of residence advisors around the world, comes the many, and often hilarious, misconceptions about what it means to be a residence advisor. A couple years ago, a friend posted a picture of her residence advisor’s room on Instagram and exclaimed in horror that she had moved into the room across the hall. During my past year as a residence advisor, a few of my residents seemed surprised when they realized I had a life outside my job.

From the outside, the job of a residence advisor can seem like a mystery. Is there more to the job than enforcing residence rules? Do residence advisors have normal lives like other students? During my freshman year I shared many of these questions and misconceptions, and I never would have imagined that I would apply to be a residence advisor. Not only did I apply to be one, but I will be starting my second year as a residence advisor this coming fall. And fortunately, I not only have a life, but a very fulfilling one!

At the beginning of my freshman year, I thought that being a residence advisor was primarily about enforcing residence standards. On the contrary, my role consists of so much more. As a residence advisor, my most important responsibility is to build and maintain a happy and healthy living community for my residents. To achieve this, I assume a variety of roles, such as an event planner and supporter.

IMG_3789As an event planner, I got to organize and attend fun events with my community that included playing laser tag with my residents, cooking a Thanksgiving meal for my house, and organizing a yoga class for my community. Since it was important to me that my residents felt at home on my floor, I created events to encourage residents to get to know each other and I eventually held weekly movie nights that gave my residents the opportunity to come together. Throughout the year, I even had the opportunity to help put on a residence musical. As a supporter, I strive to help my residents feel comfortable in their new community. Over the past year, I’ve answered countless questions, provided a listening ear, and formed good friendships with my residents.

The most fulfilling aspect of the past year was seeing my residents come together and enjoy living in their new community. By helping create a happy and healthy environment for my residents to live in, I in return felt safe and at home. While being a rule enforcer is an essential component to maintaining a safe community, the other roles I took on this year proved how multifaceted the job actually is. In addition, I didn’t have to fulfill the responsibilities of a residence advisor alone.

One of the best parts about my residence life experience is the wonderful people I have gotten to know because of it. I worked with seven other residence advisors in my building this past year who within the first week of meeting became my second family. Through my job, I’ve gained a whole new group of friends who have not only supported me through my experiences as a residence advisor, but are people I can go out and have fun with. Even when I had to be in for the night, I was never alone because my friends lived only a flight of stairs away.

IMG_3792Although being a residence advisor was a significant component of my sophomore year, I was able to successfully balance other aspects of my life. During both semesters, I took five courses and maintained strong grades. I still had the time to go out with my best friends outside of residence life each week. I wasn’t confined to campus, and I was able to travel throughout the year. So, contrary to my freshman year misconceptions, residence advisors can, and indeed do, have lives.

Becoming a residence advisor has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I would definitely recommend it as a job to consider. For any that are moving into first year dorms or are living on campus this coming fall, forming a good relationship with your residence advisor can help make your year even better. By getting to know residence advisors around me during my first year, I was able to better understand the job and realize that I, too, wanted to be a residence advisor.

Emily is a Dublin High School Class of 2013 graduate and University of British Columbia Class of 2017 junior.

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