Nervous to knowledgeable: My journey to becoming an RA

picture-of-paul-demaere-ualberta-student-lrgsize.pngI had no idea what I was getting myself into starting university and moving into residence. On my first day, I was understandably nervous—moving away from home to a place where I knew no one. The moment I walked onto 5 Mackenzie, I had two friendly faces welcoming me to my new home—my new Resident Assistants (RAs). Straight from day one I started to feel less alone.

My first night in residence

I threw up my first night in residence. I went from being so nervous that first day, to making new friends during BaseCamp orientation and bonding with my floor, thanks to the help from my RAs. They started our year off right, and throughout the difficulty of my first year in engineering, we continued to bond as a floor and strengthen those connections. Six years later, many of us are still in contact with one another.

Could I really be an RA?

It came as a bit of a surprise when my RA suggested I work in residence. I had never really gotten involved with leadership roles in high school. I was content to go to school, practice with my swim team, do homework and hang with my few friends. It was the push I needed, but not the one I expected.

My first year in Lister broke down many of my walls and I had grown a lot in that year. Here was my chance to give back to the community that allowed me to grow and change in a positive way.

I have to admit, I still didn’t have the confidence to jump into an RA role—but I still wanted to be involved. Becoming a Residence Volunteer (RV) seemed like a good fit. Unlike being an RA, the RV role was much less structured, supporting the RA.

Even as a RV, first year students were coming to me with questions and concerns, solidly convinced that I held the answers. I was learning a lot, but felt I had more to learn and grow before tackling an RA position. I’d apply the following year.

RA training was a blast

In my third year, I took the plunge and became an RA. Training was a blast, seeing all that goes into this role—from programming and team building, all the way to to managing conflict and issues. I was excited to take on the year with this new knowledge I had learned and to apply it to my role as an RA and to my campus life. I got some amazing leadership experience during BaseCamp, leading a group during the day of service programming.

"I couldn’t help but feel that residents could see how nervous and unsure I was."

Was I really cut out to be an RA?

As the semester moved forward, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t as cut out for this role as I had previously thought. I played the part well, but I couldn’t help but feel that residents could see how nervous and unsure I was. I brought up these concerns with my Residence Coordinator (RC) who was more than understanding. She listened to my worries and remained adamant that I was doing a great job in my role.

New year, new role, new team, new responsibilities

When a senior residence assistant position (SRA) opened up, my RC suggested I apply. And I got it! With these responsibilities starting in the new year, I still wasn’t sure what my role encompassed.. There was a lot of learning on my feet that semester as new things were thrown my way.

As always, I had the support of my team and I really appreciated all of their patience as I learned what to do and adjusted to the new pace, expanding my RA experience to a new team and the whole Residence tower.

Reset and re-evaluate

At the end of that year a lot of life stuff happened, leading me to take a year off from school to reset and re-evaluate. I never expected to end up a student leader in residence when I first moved in, and I was sad to leave. I felt I had found my community and my place in it.

I recognized the skills that living and working in residence had taught me—becoming a better leader, alongside improving my time and resource management. When I came back to UofA, I became a Team Facilitator for the Week of Welcome program and continued to learn about leadership. Working in Lister had given me a solid foundation upon which I could continue to build myself up.

Continuing to learn and grow

Living and working in residence has allowed me to change and grow into who I am today. I have learned to take opportunities when they present themselves, for as much as you may feel out of your depth, it is an excellent way to learn, not only about the role but about yourself as well. My confidence in leading and being a successful member of a team has increased due to my time working in residence. It has even improved my academics as I have learned how to better manage my time and prioritize tasks. Living and working in residence has made me who I am today and I am looking forward to the future.


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