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An Open Letter To My First Years

For starters, I was scared of each and every one of you at the beginning. I was so nervous to be your RA; your fearless leader to help you get through your first year of university. Sitting in front of you all during our first floor meeting felt so incredibly weird and wrong. Deep down I knew I was qualified, but confidence wise? I was 100% faking it. I’m pretty sure inner me was laughing at outer me giving advice to 30-plus people on how to survive first year. Spoiler alert: not even people who become RAs have their stuff together in first year.

The weeks went on, and I continued to try and impart my so-called wisdom on you––which you not-so-graciously rejected a few times. I can’t say it was the most encouraging when posters got ripped down, or when six people would show up to floor meetings, OR when ceiling tiles got broken. It took a while, but I learned to take things with a grain of salt.

But one night I came home and I simply couldn’t keep the “RA face” I thought I had to wear on. You noticed. You invited me into your room and asked me what was wrong; a complete role reversal. It was my job to listen and help you. I was hesitant to answer at first. Was I allowed to tell you about my problems? How much of myself was I allowed to show without blurring the line of professionalism? In that moment I thought, “RAs aren’t supposed to show weakness. We’re leaders; we need to be on all the time.” In hindsight, letting my guard down that night was the probably the reason we started to become friends. See, as much as you were supposed to “learn” from me this year, I learned a lot from you too.

That night, you taught me the most important thing about this job (and life really): it’s okay to be human. It’s okay not to be on all the time. It’s okay to show “weakness,” aka have a bad day like every other person out there. You helped me realize that, despite being in a leadership role, I didn’t always have to know the answers. I was still allowed to make mistakes––I just had to keep learning and keep trying.

It took me a little while to figure out that I could be myself around you all, and I wish I figured it out sooner. You all helped me understand that being human is way better than trying to pretend to be perfect and on top of everything all the time. If you remember anything from me from this year let it be that––and the caloric equivalencies between beer and Oreos.

I hope I wasn’t just another purple shirt to you, because you all certainly were not just first years to me.

Cheers to second year!


- Love your RA


Gabriella is in her third year at Western U studying kinesiology and creative writing.
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