Little Steps, Big World — An RA’s Perspective

By Anastasia Ehling

College is a whirlwind of experiences. There are classes, jobs, and internships, all on top of learning how to be an adult. For some of us, it’s our first time being away from home. Coming to a new home or a new school can be incredibly intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be scary or lonely. While we all have different experiences, struggling to learn how to navigate our lives during our college years is something we can all relate to. 

Working as a Resident Assistant (RA) for off-campus student housing has allowed me to meet new people and to work on fun events that leave me with fond memories. I have made wonderful connections with my co-workers, whom I love, and created a community of people who want to have a memorable college experience coming out of a pandemic. 

Being an RA means that I work where I live. I know many people wouldn’t prefer that, but it makes some things incredibly convenient. Some of my co-workers have become some of my best friends. We’ve found that we have so much in common, and we love to hang out together outside of work. For example, I can walk over to my friends’ apartments to hang out, so I feel like it creates more opportunities to see my friends even if we don’t always have the same schedule. One time, a fellow RA was driving to their building but stopped by to talk to me while I was at work, and it really raised my spirits after having a long day.

Having a great group of people to work with makes me love going to work and being around them.

Through my job, I’ve also met other college students who have similar interests as me and some who are even in some of my classes. After studying together on campus with some of the people I’ve met, we will go home and see each other later that same night to hang out. There’s another friend of mine who lives a couple of buildings over from me, and it is like I’m interacting with another me but in a different font. It creates a very wholesome feeling that I have such close friends that I can see on a regular basis rather than only seeing them at work or in class.

As a Resident Assistant, I have the opportunity to create a space for the residents and their friends to form memories and have enjoyable experiences. Being an RA includes answering questions, making sure things are running smoothly for the residents, and planning and hosting events for the residents to do something different and meet other people.

My fellow RAs and our leasing agents like to say that your experience is what you make it. If you make an effort to meet new people or trying new things, you’ll have good experiences and make friends. We, as RAs, try to make it an amazing time while you’re in college. 

Fairly recently, some residents had put up a flyer saying that we were hosting a pizza party later in the month as an April Fool’s joke. Since so many residents were excited about it, we decided to make it happen. It was a lot of fun having the event prompted by an April Fool’s joke.

Being an RA does mean that sometimes you have to do mundane office work—making sure that everything in our residents’ apartments is working (no one wants to come home to a leak or a broken washing machine), letting residents in if they are locked out of their apartment, and handling noise complaints—but my favorite part about being an RA is hosting events for our residents.

My co-workers and I will host small- and large-scale events every month during the Fall and Spring semesters. The smaller-scale events allow us to have more intimate interactions with residents and are perfect for students who may not want to participate in an event with a large number of people.

One instance of a close friendship coming about at a small-scale was at an event we had recently where a photo booth was set up and people could get dressed up and take photos, leaving with a personalized photo strip to remember the night of fun.

Something crazy that happened is that two of the residents got to talking while waiting in line and discovered that it wasn’t their first meeting. As they got to know one another a bit more, they figured out that they had been friends years ago in France but had lost contact with each other. Years later, they’re living in a different country only a few buildings apart. It was like watching a scene from a movie or a book come to life.

Our large-scale events are meant for the whole housing complex, so there are more people to interact with. Some of the more popular events have been pool parties, a Halloween haunted house, and a carnival. Here, residents can come with their friends and make new friends by participating in the activities. Several friend groups have been formed at these larger events, and I love being able to see students having a fun time despite how stressful the college experience can be.

One of my favorite large-scale events that we’ve hosted has been a pool party this past March. I am not usually the one taking photos, but this time I was since our media person was working with live videos for the apartment complex’s Instagram account. I got to go around the pool and to the different attractions we had, such as a foam pit, an obstacle course, and a dunk tank to take photos of the residents having fun. I got to meet a lot of people that way, and it felt incredible to go around seeing people have fun at an event that we had put together for them. The idea that I would have enjoyed going around and talking to so many people would have stunned me years ago.

Since coming to UCF and moving into my own apartment, I’ve begun to feel like I belong and to take an active role in my community.

I never saw myself becoming a Resident Assistant – I initially found this place because I was looking for a place to live, but I ended up finding a lot of cool people that are helping to shape my college experience. It’s not what I had expected for myself, but I’m really glad that I took the opportunity to branch outside of my comfort zone.