Last year when I applied and interviewed to be an RA at Bowling Green State University, I never thought that being a resident advisor would influence who I am as a person so drastically, but it has. Reflecting on the time I have spent in this position, going all the way back to the rigorous, mentally exhausting, and time-consuming fall training, I have grown immensely. I have gained more confidence in myself and my voice; I don't tend to sit back and watch things happen anymore.
I am so thankful for everything that this job has given me and the growth that has sprouted from this seed in my life, so I wanted to share all the beauty of the job with people looking to become an RA!
1. Learning confrontation skills
Last spring, I had to take a class that essentially was a training class for the forthcoming RA training beginning fall semester. In this class, we learned about five different conflict styles: avoiding turtle, accommodating teddy bear, competitive shark, collaborating owl, and compromising fox (I don't know the reasoning behind the animals).
Before this job, my main conflict style was a tie between the avoiding turtle and the accommodating teddy bear, so essentially I either avoided conflict or pushed all of my needs aside to make sure the other person in the conflict was satisfied. Now, however, I tend to rely more heavily on the compromising fox rather than the avoiding turtle, but I still lean towards accommodating teddy bear the most. That being said, I now know how to channel different conflict styles for different situations and I don't freeze now! That's a BIG step for me, y'all.
2. Learning communication skills
This gif was me before this job. To say the least, my communication skills were pitiful because
1) I have anxiety and talking to other people is just very anxiety-inducing for me,
2) I'm not great at saying how I'm feeling (ask anyone), and
3) I'm a major introvert, aka I'd rather be alone than with people, let alone talk to them.
This job, however, forced me outside of my comfort zone and has made me communicate my feelings to others rather than keeping everything bottled up.
3. Time management
Honestly, I'm still working on this skill, but my time management was pitiful before this job. With the RA job, duty nights, bulletin boards, and other RA tasks combined with 15-18 credit hours, time management is something that you have to learn and learn fast. Otherwise, you'll find yourself crying every other night, like I did for the first half of first semester. I'm getting a lot better at it though, and I only cry like once a week now, so YAY for improvement!
As I just said, I'm an introvert, and socializing is not one of my strengths. Socializing is a crucial part of this job, though (literally, I document when I socialize with my residents). Not only did I have to improve the skill in general, but I've also learned how to adapt how I talk to certain people to socialize in the way that they're comfortable doing so. I've gotten so much better at talking to other people, and my inner anxious and introverted soul is quite proud of me.
5. Learning crisis management skills
Crisis management is one of my favorite things about this job; I'd rather respond to a crisis situation than bust someone for drugs or alcohol. Now, what exactly is crisis management, you ask? Crisis management is, according to reslife.net, "handling, supervising, controlling an emotionally stressful event, a traumatic change in a person's life, or an unstable condition; the ability to effectively respond to an unstable person or condition (e.g., dealing with a student considering suicide)." it can also be anything related to mental illness or Title IX (sexual assault).
In these situations, people feel helpless, like they have nobody. However, I get to be that somebody. I get to help them feel like they belong and help them feel safe, and there's no feeling greater than this to me. I love being this person's rock and confidant and being able to help them feel as loved as possible. The best part is, I'm really good at this, and I'm proud to be good at this.
6. Building a community
This has been one of my favorite parts of this job, and I would say that my floor has a very strong sense of community (not to toot my own horn or anything). It's like forming your own little neighborhood, it's quite fun!
7. Learning about my impact on others
I never realized how big of an impact I had on others with this job, but it's really cool to have, and I'm extremely grateful that I can use this job to impact people in such a positive way.
8. Establishing and developing my strengths
One of the things we had to do for the RA class I talked about earlier was take the CliftonStrengths test, which tells you your five greatest strengths. In order, mine are connectedness, intellection, empathy, ideation, and belief. It's been really fun and fascinating to utilize and build upon these five strengths throughout the job!
9. Leadership and responsibility
Being in charge of 45 people is no easy feat, and it forces you to take charge and take responsibility, which is something I was unbelievably awful at.
10. Finding my second family
The RA staff has become my second family — we all bicker and love each other like siblings. They have become some of my best friends in the whole world, and they have all of my heart. If I write more, I'll probably start crying.
11. Helping people
Through this job, I have been able to help so many people, whether it be in big ways or small. I am so grateful for the opportunity to touch the lives of the RA staff and my residents, and I'm so glad I am able to do what I love: helping others.