What is it like to be an RA?

Aliya is a resident assistant at the University of Maine. What does it mean to be an RA and why does she recommend other international students become RAs?

This is my second year as a Resident Assistant at the University of Maine. Resident Assistant, commonly shortened to RA, is a trained student leader who supervises those living in a residence hall. For the past two years, I’ve been an RA in first-year residence halls. If you are an international student considering to be an RA, hopefully this article will give you a better understanding of what the job requires.

Role of an RA

RAs role is to create a welcoming, safe and respectful community for residents. RAs at my university are on duty about once every other week and one or two weekends a month. Duty means sitting at the front desk from 7pm-11pm on weeknights and 9pm- 2am on weekend nights; I have to do one round of the building on a weeknight and three rounds on a weekend night.

In addition to that, my job is to know each resident on my floor. Once a semester I have to meet with residents 1:1 in order to find out how they’re doing. My staff meets every week to go over policies and updates; as well as that, I have to meet with my supervisor every other week for individual updates. RAs have to plan a number of programs in their halls. These programs usually target specific outcomes, such as academic preparedness or personal safety.

Along with all of that, In terms of their behavior and academics, RAs are expected to be good role models to their residents. On average, RAs work 20 hours a week. You are allowed to have a second job. At my university, we are students first, RA’s second, and regular work employees third. I know many people who are able to succeed at all three of those at once.

At UMaine, students who work as RAs receive full room and board coverage in form of a scholarship. That is definitely one of the biggest incentives of the job.

Because RAs live where they work and work where they live, they are usually first-responders to emergency situations. Before a semester starts, RA’s go through intensive training where they learn about various policies, as well as how to respond to emergency situations. As an RA, you might encounter situations that can be hard to deal with: from self-harm to suicide ideation. Chances of such incidents happening are low, but, you never know.

My favorite part of being an RA is seeing the result of my work. Once I overheard a resident say to his friend that I was the best RA. That was definitely a great feeling.

Why should an international student be an RA?

I applied to be an RA for many reasons. Living on campus is the most convenient and safest option for me. But the biggest reason why applied for this job is because I wanted to make the most of my time at UMaine. And when I say that, I don’t mean partying every weekend. Being able to come to US and study subjects I am truly passionate about is a privilege that I do not take for granted. So when I started my freshman year, I told myself that I will not waste a minute of my time here. RA position helped me improve and grow as a person. I work in a team of highly motivated people, and being around them really pushes me to be better, do more, and aim higher. As an RA, you have an opportunity to impact your residents’ lives, and that is a truly humbling experience. No matter how many movies they watch and how many stories they hear from their older siblings, when people first start college, they have no clue what it is going to be like. So having a good RA to guide them is very crucial.

There were plenty of times when I felt like I was drowning in work. Staying up until 2 a.m. and checking bathrooms might not be the best way to prepare for an exam the next day. In order to avoid that, I quickly learned to use my time wisely. If I have an early morning class on Monday, I do not sign up for Sunday duty. If I have a full day of classes, I don’t take duty on that evening. On days when I am not on duty, I try to get as much sleep as I can. However, if I need to catch up with my homework, going to bed early is not an option. In that case, I utilize the short breaks I have in between classes for naps. Most things in life are doable, and if you want to succeed as a student and work as an RA, you have to be efficient, and remember to take care of your body. Take vitamins, keep some healthy food in your mini-fridge, and utilize your student gym membership more often.


Aliya UteuovaAliya Uteuova is an international student from Kazakhstan studying political science and mass communications at the University of Maine. Aliya is a journalism intern with ISV Magazine, writing about her own experiences as an international student in the U.S. as well as writing feature articles on topics important to all international students. 

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