Since May, I have been employed as a resident assistant at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Now that I regularly don khaki shorts and wear carabiner-clipped keys to my belt loops, I am finally starting to find a comfort zone in one of the weirdest and most fun titles of my life: RA Kami.
UNO's RA situation is a bit different from other universities, because all of our residence halls are in an suite/apartment layout. Since the housing is different, so are our residential numbers, compared to a typical dorm building. However, all 38 of us student workers on staff have quickly become a close-knit group with shared experiences and meme-filled group chats.
Although it's only been about a month since our whole training cycle began, I felt it necessary to depict the joy residence life has brought me and my RA peers, because gosh, you guys, isn't that part of the whole college experience?
I have interviewed as many of my colleagues/friends as I could (come on, follow the 48 hour email policy, guys), and their passionate, vibrant, adorable answers are below. Join the love fest, and this next semester, drop the books for an hour to come to an event on campus, because we can give you a ton of reasons why our event programming is way better than calculus.
1. You create a real home.
"Having been an RA, I have met some amazing people, RAs and non-RAs. I've become much more familiar with the area and the people that make this place run. Also, if I'd never lived on campus, my college experience would not have helped me to grow. I think it should almost be mandatory to live on-campus your first year. Think about the people you meet, the events you go to. Being a commuter versus a resident makes a world of a difference. The independence I found through living here has made me much more responsible and pushed outside of my comfort zone. This place really feels like home when you get connected with the community." -Brandi Mountain, University of Nebraska-Omaha
2. You jump right out of your comfort zone.
"I have made fantastic friends I may never have known without living on-campus. Overall, the decision to become Scott Campus resident improved my college experience tremendously. I have always struggled with staying inside my bubble of security. I knew that when I accepted the position of an RA, not only would I meet incredible new people, but I would also be faced with many difficult situations I had never experienced. I have gained more confidence and leadership skills than I could have with an average college student job. While I didn't realize it at the time, all of these experiences have made me appreciate the uncertainty of life and welcome new and somewhat scary situations." -Sam Swanson, University of Nebraska-Omaha
3. "I'm bored" isn't in your vocabulary.
"I believe students should be involved with campus life because statistics have shown they're more likely to arrive to class on time and graduate on time, too. What I've noticed more about being involved on campus is that it's a great opportunity to enjoy and absorb the 'college experience.' I never find myself actually looking for something to do. There's always stuff going on just because I've made the connections on campus with other students and residents. The greatest experiences of being an RA is being able to mesh with your co-workers and hanging out with them outside of work, but that's not all. Through the job, I have met way more people on campus of who I would have never met without being an RA. The benefits are kinda self-explanatory, but having access to pretty much the entire residential campus is wicked!" -Michael Spelts, University of Nebraska-Omaha
4. "Resourceful" will be your new middle name.
"There is a community on campus that has students from every major and every background going for all types of careers. Getting to know these people in the residence life community will be very rewarding. This also puts students in a position to help other people by sharing their resources and experiences. Just living on campus puts has put me in an atmosphere of individuals who are all going to college or working with the college to better students and prepare them for the career they are pursuing. That can be a very motivating place to live in. It also is very convenient to go to classes and study with everything being just a few minutes away. Outside of academics it has been very easy to meet people with similar interests and hang out with them. If you have something you like to do for fun, there's someone here on campus that likes to do it, too." -Matt Norrie, University of Nebraska-Omaha
5. Employers will be impressed by your experience.
"There are an abundance of skills and relationships you form when being a part of residence life. Communication, teamwork, community development, advising, personal management and diversity and community standards are just a few of the many skills. All of these are what employers look for when selecting applicants. Why not get free housing, meal plan and build a resume at the same time? On top of skills, you will form relationships not only with your colleagues/friends, but with other residents on campus. The amount of people you meet is astonishing. Some days it is funny to think how fast things change and how I went from resident to resident assistant within literally a week of training. I wish I would've made friends with these individuals way earlier than I did. The overall atmosphere is awesome to be around!" -Lane DeGroff, University of Nebraska-Omaha
6. You will make life-long friends.
"A lot of students are worried that they'll come to college and not be able to make friends but if you just go to a campus event it's almost impossible to leave without making friends or leaving without having friendly faces to wave at on campus. My greatest experience living on campus is getting roomed with my roommates last year. There are plenty of roommate horror stories, but mine is a sappy moment or two short of a Lifetime movie. I was lucky enough to be roomed with two girls who are now some of my best friends. From countless movie nights, dinner dates, nights sitting on the floor talking, cleaning the apartment together, getting our first tattoos together, and going on a spring break trip together I am so thankful to this campus for bringing us together. This is why I am always telling people to try and make friends because you never know how amazing those connections can be!" -Sydney Rogers-Morrell, University of Nebraska-Omaha
7. You will learn how to support and improve your community.
"I was extremely nervous when I first moved to the Omaha campus from Georgia. I was fortunate enough to be placed into the RA room my freshmen year of college. My RA introduced me to people and got me out of my shell. I met some of the most amazing people that I am still friends with today. My floor those years built a community. We would make meals together, play kickball and volleyball and watch movies. That only happened because I ventured out and met people and introduced them to others. My RA my first two years of college mentored me and gave me the greatest experiences of my college years. I became an RA to be that in other people's lives. There is so much community on campus. You never have to eat alone because there is always a group of hungry RAs willing to come to the cafe with you. I have only been an RA for a few weeks, but I already feel as though we have built a family. I know that I have 35 people in my life who support me and have got my back. From knowing the behind-the-scenes work, it has made me aware and appreciative of all Res Life does for the residential community." -Bryanna Beckman, University of Nebraska-Omaha
8. You will take chances on people you've never met before.
"People should get involved in residence life because it is very different from home. It's a bunch of people just like us trying to make the best of it. I've met a lot of people who regret not getting involved at all. In the photo attached, I took a chance and befriended some international students who invited me to try some Japanese food. It was very delicious, and I seriously recommend it." -Maria Gonzalez, University of Nebraska-Omaha
While my school is a wonderful place to be a resident, I think you'll find that all of these statements ring true among colleges across the country. As a regular resident, I didn't get involved nearly as much as I do as an RA now, and it makes me sad knowing I missed out on some amazing friendships earlier on in my college career because I just felt like watching "The Office" for the 800th time.
Get on your RA's good side, introduce yourself to others even if it feels awkward and know that no matter how nerdy and organized on-campus events are, they are the key to meeting friends that will be by your side from there.
Make sure you pack your extra long twin sheets and a good attitude this fall, and I'm sure you will meet your people. You'll even have a few free t-shirts and a belly full of free food to prove your effort!