Fun fact: growing up, I was obsessed with the Nickelodeon show Zoey 101. While I don’t remember a whole lot about the show, I do remember having a childhood crush on Chase, laughing alongside the ravioli-eating Resident Assistant, Coco, and thinking that my life would be just like theirs when I grew up. Whelp. Nothing in my life even closely resembles that of the show, except for the fact that I am currently serving as a first year Resident Assistant (RA). Well, technically at Baylor University, they are called Community Leaders (CLs), but like any other university, we are the front liners of policy enforcement to ensure resident safety. However, we are called Community Leaders because at its core, our role emphasizes the need to build authentic communities within the residence halls. Despite the seemingly never-ending restrictions on group gatherings due to the pandemic, these communities are still taking formative shape (even if it does look a little different) and it’s inspiring to see the connections being made everyday. Serving in this capacity during a pandemic has been challenging, overwhelming, and downright tiring, but has also taught me so much about what it means to truly lead with a servant heart.
Here are just a few things that this role has taught me thus far:
1. Adaptibility is Key
I learned pretty quickly within this role that no two situations are ever exactly the same because no two people are the same. Therefore, the way that a situation needs to be handled has to change to fit that need. Adapting to different situations is not only essential within a role like this, but as a student, you should be able to adapt to different class styles. When a pandemic first sent college students home in April of this past year, students had to adapt to learning fully online or risk failing classes. After college, you might find yourself in a situation where your boss asks you to change something within a presentation on the spot, and you’ll have to adapt accordingly.
2. CREATE BOUNDARIES!
Living where you work can be difficult because even when you’re “off the clock,” there can be situations you have to respond to. Sometimes that’s unavoidable, but sometimes, you just have to say “no.” If it is midnight, and I have an exam the next day, I will not open my door unless it is an absolute emergency. Whether they are a resident, or just a friend, creating boundaries and putting YOURSELF first should be the number one priority. It isn’t selfish. It’s being self-aware of your limitations.
3. Time Management is Crucial
You probably hear this all the time, but managing your time is SO IMPORTANT. You need to prioritize the most important things first and DO NOT procrastinate. Easier said than done though right? I can’t even tell you the countless times I should have been studying for an exam but found myself either watching Dance Moms on my bed or talking to a resident in the hallway for hours. As a CL, we are also responsible for planning programs, engaging in our communities, among other tasks. Without scheduling out your time properly, your stress will become all-consuming.
4. Eating, Sleeping, and Resting are Non-Negotiable
I don’t know about you, but when I’m super stressed about all the assignments and deadlines piled onto my plate, my appetite goes away (pun fully intended). Then my sleep cycle gets messed up, and I spend no time getting active, journaling, or doing anything to actively rest. When you neglect these basic needs, the work you produce becomes subpar and the interactions you have with others will more than likely become more negative. Even if you have to physically block meal times into your schedule or lock away your work after 9pm every night, do something to ensure you are getting the adequate rest you need.
5. A Growth-Mindset is Vital
Since coming into this role, I’ve made thousands of mistakes. Whether that be in the ways I interacted with my residents, communicated with my supervisors, or handled certain situations. We’re human and we make mistakes. However, that doesn’t excuse you from refusing to learn and grow from those mistakes. Take every single mistake or piece of feedback as an opportunity to grow personally and professionally!
6. A Small Act of Kindness Goes a Long Way
The impact that you are able to have on residents within this role can be both encouraging and daunting. There are moments when I feel like I’m failing in every way possible within this role. However, you never know how a small act of kindness can impact someone’s day. Whether it be just smiling (with your eyes because you should be wearing a mask in public: as Tyra Banks said… SMIZE), and saying hello when someone walks through the halls or sending a quick text reminding someone that you care about them, those acts matter. You never know the storms someone may be walking through on a day to day basis, but even small reminders that show them they are seen and loved can impact their lives.
Things aren’t always bright and bubble in this job. There are some hard days, long nights, and moments where I question whether or not I’m even cut out for this role. Despite all of this, the lessons that I’ve learned and the impact this role has had in my life is astounding. The community that has started to take shape within the residence hall is a beautiful sight to see and I’m so grateful to be a small part of that growth. Whether you are working within a residence hall, trying to build a community among your peers, or just trying to make it through a hard day, I hope that these lessons serve you well.