What is an RA?

 

In April of 2018 I was able to sit down with Amanda K. Williams (then sophomore) who used to be a first-year RA at STCU. She was generous enough to spare some time in order for incoming college students to help get to know what an RA is and why they are so very important. Amanda is an Econ major with a Business Administration minor.

 

 

Q: What is it like being an RA for college freshman?

A: Sometimes it feels like I'm a mom and I have 45, 3 year old kids running around. It really just depends on the day.  I think first year cluster is really unique because we are dealing with really young people coming to college and for most people it's the first time they are away from home if they're living in first year dorms, and so they're navigating a lot of life skills so sometimes it can be frustrating to say, “Please wash your dishes and don't just leave them there.” At the same time I want my floor to feel like a home. So I kinda let things like that go a little bit because if you are at home and you needed your dishes to dry and you just left them until you actually had a minute to put them away, that would just be fine. So you know there is definitely a balance.

Back Row - Baillie Bergman, Taylor King, Emily Sien, Amanda K. Williams, Corri Collins, Laura Perri // Front Row - Sydne Carlson, Miranda Jones, Serita Donovan

 

Q: What made you want to become an RA?

A: My cousin is an RA at Hamline. So she always told me, “Oh, you’d be a really good RA, you should try to do it.” I’m pretty crafty so my impression about being an RA before I was an RA was like, “Cool I get to do crafts and like host little craft parties. Awesome yeah I can do that!” And then you get into being an RA and you're like “Oh my gosh there is so much mental health stuff that I have to help out with. There are so many personal problems that I have to help people overcome.” Then you have to try to do your best at that and then it can be really rewarding. We talked about a spring RA training like lollipop moments which is when somebody impacts you in a way that you like hold on to, but they didn't even realize they had impacted you in that way. Either the next day or that morning someone told me, “You did a really good job you really helped me go through this so thank you for that.” And so that made a huge impact on me.

Q: What types of things can students go to you for?

A: Pretty much everything and anything. During the first semester a resident on my floor sent me an email and asked if I had bread I replied, “No, sorry but you can get some in the market place.” There is also more serious things like mental health issues. People can come to RAs and say, “Hey, I'm really struggling with this. What do I do?” And the RA you have will most likely recommend going to counseling and walk you to counseling to help you set up an appointment. People can also come to us with drinking and drug problems. At STCU there is an amnesty policy so if your friend is intoxicated, but they need help, (even if you are intoxicated through drugs or alcohol) you can come to the RA and say, “Hey, my friend needs help.” It's always better to reach out for help even if you're afraid of being punished. 

Back row - Laura Perri, Amanda K. Williams, Corri Collins, Baillie Bergman, Emily Sien // Front Row - Miranda Jones, Synde Carlson, Taylor King

 

Q: Why do you think it is important for students to understand who their RA is and what they can go to their RA’s for?

A: For people who aren't coming to the RA it is easy for them to become isolated and I like to think that you can think of your RA as just one more person looking out for you. If you come to your RA and are frequently interacting with them they’ll notice a shift in your behavior and sometimes that can help them to help you.

Q: What is the biggest piece of advice that you have received/ learned that you would give to an incoming first year?

A: I have a few and STCU recommends this too, don't go home for the first six weeks. I think that's really true because people who do that are more connected to campus and they're more likely to stay the rest of the school year. STCU is really known for being in a suitcase school because people home go home on the weekend. The second piece of advice came from my high school boyfriend’s dad which he gave both of us before we went to college; He said that in college the first 6 months of college you feel like, “I don’t know if I want to be here. I want to quit. I want to go home.” Then other moments you're like, “Wow! This is awesome!” It's a whole roller coaster ride. Get through those first 6 months before deciding if it’s for you or not, and then make a decision. Oh, this is from my professor, Kristine West, she’s also my advisor, she tells us, “On Fridays after you get done with class do your homework. Take that time and do your homework. Don't just wait for the evening to start, don't wait for the weekend to start, do your homework because then you're taking at least 3 hours to do work so that on Sunday you're not like everybody else with their heads cut off running around like chickens.” Lastly, be respectful and know that you're coming into an institution that has a lot of people in it that have diverse backgrounds. Know that you're probably not going to come in knowing how to respect each individual person's identity and you'll have to learn and grow, but when somebody calls you out and says like, “Hey, what you just said is racist or what you said was homophobic or what you just said wasn’t right and it wasn’t respectful. Instead of getting defensive take a step back and say, “Ok, give me a minute let me think” and then apologize. There's nothing worse than somebody feeling invalidated because of a comment or an action that you did.

 

Summer Juneau, Joanna Schoenfeld, Miranda Jones, Marie Maraon, Alexis (Lexi) Erickson, Amanda K. Williams, Laura Perri