“You’re an R.A. 24/7” is a phrase that I’ve been hearing since I stepped into Reeves for my first day of training in the Fall of 2013. I’ve since started spouting it out in response to questions about how many hours I work, what days of the week I work, and if I’m ever NOT an R.A. I’ve also recently considered getting the phrase inked along my forearm in a typewriter font.
While I’ll often make jokes about being a Resident Assistant at the University of Tampa, working for Residence Life has made my experience at UT a meaningful, and sometimes entertaining, one.
I started my career with Residence Life my sophomore year at UT in McKay hall. I worked on community side and had an entire hall of lowerclassmen residents. This year, in ResCom/Palm Apartments, serving a mixed community of upper and lower classmen. Next year, I’m excited to serve as the Head Resident in the same building. This means that instead of being responsible for a floor of residents, I’ll be responsible for a staff of R.A.s. I’m looking forward to providing my future staff with the same sense of community and family that I’ve experienced.
Being an R.A. has not only provided me with free housing, a resume builder, and dozens of hilarious stories, but it’s also provided me with a community I didn’t know I needed. Last year I worked on a staff of nine R.A.s, most of whom I’m still extremely close with. We ended up bonding rather quickly through filling out Incident Report Forms together at 3 a.m., and supporting each other through breakups, the loss of family members, and the overall stress of college. Even though we’re not on the same staff anymore, we still pick each other up at the airport each semester and make time to have dinner . During spring training this past January, my grandfather passed away. That morning I sent a text to my Co-R.A. from last year and within minutes she was across campus and at my door. When I returned to training after being with my family, my R.A. family was there to greet me with their love and support, something I know that we’ll always be willing to give each other regardless of what staff we’re on.
On the surface level, the job seems like it’s all door tags, bulletin boards, and bribing students with food to come to programs, but there’s a lot of additional work that we have to put in. Programs require advanced planning, registration, evaluation forms, and reimbursements. Door tags and bulletin boards usually go up at 11:59 p.m. on the day they’re due. I’ve had to knock on doors, leave notes, and stop people in the hallway just to get a signature roster signed. I’ve gone delusional and started speaking in the third person while writing a two-page single-spaced Incident Report Form at 5 a.m.. And the eleventh circle of hell is leaving for winter break and having all of the keys work, but returning in the spring to check them and finding that none of them do.
The majority of the. job is serving as a resource for your residents and working to build a sense of community in your residence hall. However, the most difficult part of the job is documenting UT policy violations and incidents with residents. Residents often have a hard time separating the job from the person, resulting in a lot of snide remarks and awkward silences the morning after a documentation occurs. One of my biggest struggles when I first started out was not taking it personally when my residents were upset with me for doing my job. Having a resident hate you no matter how many times you explain to them that you’re just doing your job, you’re not out to get them, and you do in fact know that “it’s college,” can be extremely frustrating. The best advice I could give an R.A. is to forgive and forget. The sooner you move on from an incident, the sooner your residents will too.
As an employee of the Office of Residence Life, I’ve often found myself having to defend them. Everybody has issues with their job and their employers, and I haven’t been immune to my own frustrations. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that just as R.A.s get blamed for doing their job, ResLife is often times the messenger with the bad news who gets shot. What people don’t realize is that being a part of ResLife, as with any job, has its pros and cons. Anyone who has ever been an R.A. at UT will tell you that working Halloween and Gasparilla is the most stressful thing you’ll ever experience, and that R.A. training is entirely too long. But ResLife provides you with the opportunity to develop leadership skills, serves as an outlet for your passion for crafting, and gives you a family of R.A.s, H.R.s, and Professional staff members who will always have your back.
I’ve been an R.A. 24/7 since I signed my acceptance letter, and I’ll always be extremely grateful for ResLife and the importance that they’ve place on my time here at UT.
Kara Delemeester can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org