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Living with Chelsea

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

Name: Chelsea Brandwein

Year: 4th

Major: Classics

Hometown: I’m from Santa Monica–more like West LA, but I went to school in Santa Monica so that’s mainly my stomping ground.


How long have you been an RA?

This is going to be my third year as an RA, so yeah it’s been a while!


Where have you lived so far?

My first year, I lived in Santa Cruz; then the next year I was an RA for that same floor (reppin’ the 2300s! Substance free floor, really strong!). Then I was in San Raf last year working with continuing students, so a lot of second years and some third years. This year I’m working with a really large population of transfer students, which is really exciting because they’re all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and excited to be here, so mainly third and fourth years. So I’ve gotten to see all the different levels of college life! It’s been cool.


Why did you decide to become an RA the first time?

I actually went into college with a little knowledge about the RA position to begin with. I had a lot of family friends that had just recently graduated that talked a lot about jobs and things they had taken up while in college, things their friends had taken up, and great experiences they knew were out there. So they said hey, you know, there’s this great RA position and basically they throw in the whole room and board thing and all the benefits and things like that. When I heard about it I thought it was really cool and my mom thought I should look into it. And then my freshman year, I was in the Residence Hall Association; I ran for Santa Cruz president and didn’t think I would win–I was up against four other people that seemed way more qualified than me, and they were the type of people that were super involved in high school: on the AS track and everything. So I ran and I won–it was the craziest thing ever! I was the liason for my hall, and I was in the Residence Hall Association–doing both. Yeah, so having that experience with programing and working in a residence hall and being friends with a lot of the RAs, having those connections, [becoming an RA] seemed like the next step; so I applied, and I was very nervous in the group interview and I didn’t know if I was the right person for this kind of a job. Then they hired me, and now I can’t imagine my college experience without this job, so I feel like it defines me.


Why did you decide to continue being an RA after your first year?

The people, for sure. Residents, of course, and then also staff members and lead staff. There’s an incredible energy with the people in housing in general and it’s infectious. I don’t think–like I said earlier–I could imagine not being “Chelsea the RA”. It’s a part of me, at this point.


Are you friends with all of your residents?

This year to be honest, since it’s such a spread out community, I haven’t even met every single one of my residents. There are some people that haven’t moved in yet, and there are some people that are moving in and out, so I haven’t really had the chance to go door to door and put a face to every name. I’m still working on learning names, but we had a good group of residents come out to the ice cream social on sunday night welcome week and that was exciting because I got to meet a lot of people there; even so, I think I have a hundred and something residents [here at Santa Ynez] and to see everyone every day is definitely not something that I can really strive for. In Santa Cruz it was so easy because there was one hall with eighty people and you either saw them or you didn’t in the communal bathroom or down the hall somewhere. So definitely, I would love to be friends with my residents, or as many of them as wanna get to know me–but I don’t think that’s the most doable thing in a community like this that’s so spread apart. It really depends on the community; if they wanna be involved with their RA and have a different relationship than just the RA-resident one and they want to seek a friendship, then they’ll reach out. I’m not the type of RA that likes to kind of butt myself in, so if you wanna get to know me that’s cool and if you don’t you can just live here in peace and harmony and enjoy yourself and if you have any problems–I’m here for you.


Is this your biggest group so far?

This is my biggest group, yes! Last year in San Raf I only had about forty-eight residents, so that was the smallest number of people and it was a lot easier to get to know everyone on a more individualized level.



What are the pros and cons of being an RA?

Pros: definitely the people. You feel like you have a tight-knit warm community to come home to every night; you always feel like you have a team behind you, and that kind of support system is really just so reassuring. When you go out on campus and you’ve had the worst day ever and you come back to your staff and you say “Hey I had the worst day today! This, this, and this happened!” and there’s always that reassuring body of people behind you, so that’s pretty cool you have your own little army. Other pros: I’ve never been bored, I’ve never had a space this big before (apartment), cooking for myself is a new thing now but that’s definitely something that has taken a weight off my parents. [On the other hand,] you’re basically a resource for people 24/7; you can have people knock on your door crying at three in the morning, and you have to respond to that. I’ve stayed up until six in the morning with someone who was throwing up in a trash can. I’ve had people disclose to me for the first time that they were sexually assaulted. While I’m just here listening, those kind of things can affect you emotionally as well. I mean you know this person, you foster a relationship with them, and they’re your resident–almost a friend of yours. So there are things like that where you become worried about that person and their situation and you try to help in the best way you can and that can take away from your own schoolwork and your own focus. So definitely: while there’s a lot of good, there’s also a lot of not so good things that come along with being an RA.


Why do you think other people should apply to be an RA?

I think it’s one of those positions that literally gives you experience in everything. You do front desk work, so you have that hospitality aspect. You’re constantly interacting with different personalities, so when you go out into the workforce you are someone that can understand how to work with different types of people that have different learning strategies and different ideas of what kind of event will be successful. Definitely event planning is something you get very experienced with; catering food for seventy people and that kind of thing becomes pretty easy. Making emergency calls becomes a lot easier as well; for a lot of people, dialing 911 is a very scary thing–those are three very intimidating numbers put together. Emergency preparedness training is always a good human skill to have. [This job] really just enhances your college experience; it teaches you time management, balancing work/school/social life and you become a fully well-rounded person.


Do you have a favorite memory as an RA?

I would say doing rounds with my boss on duty last Halloween weekend, and that’s always the craziest–here at UCSB, there’s that stigma that it’s gonna be wild and crazy around that time. We were just walking through the halls, and seeing people’s costumes while they were leaving their rooms. I think that was the first time I’ve laughed that hard with a boss before. That was really fun and it sticks out as a very vivid memory for me.


Which dorm was your favorite to live in as an RA?

Well they all have their own charm. I haven’t lived [in Santa Ynez] long enough to say it’s my favorite, but I’ll say between San Raf and Santa Cruz that probably Santa Cruz is my favorite because I felt such a connection to that floor, having lived on it the previous year. Being in my old RA’s room the following year did take some adjusting, and realizing that it wasn’t my year I was living with on that floor. [Nevertheless,] having good friends down the hall, going to late night at DLG, getting food out in IV, just having that community–that sisterhood–I found to be really really important your first year. That’s one of the things that’s good about Santa Cruz–and Anacapa and other freshman dorms–is that you get the opportunity to have that little family when you’re living there. It’s my favorite. It’s a floor that a lot of friendships come out of, it makes me all warm and fuzzy.


What do you hope will happen when this article gets posted?

I hope that someone that I’ve never met before will recognize me and say that they read an article about me on Her Campus and that now they want to be an RA.

Kristine is a 3rd year Chemistry major at UC Santa Barbara. She was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. When she's not writing, she works with her sister to create adorable baked delicacies for The Royal Icing, their at-home bakery. She's also a ballerina, lipstick enthusiast, and bunny lover. Post-graduation, she plans on going to graduate school while continuing her writing career. Catch her on instagram @CookiesForKay