College housing can be a bit of a maze given new terms that new students quickly have to become familiar with. From residence halls to residential communities to residential colleges, it can seem overwhelming at first. Thankfully one of our student publications, North by Northwestern, created a housing guide for incoming students (found here). For the purpose of this post, I’ll refer to all on campus residences as ‘dorms.’ The people who help you navigate the world of on campus housing are the wonderful Resident Assistants (RAs). Regardless of the type of housing, there are two to three upperclassmen RAs who live on each floor with the residents and help to enforce rules, resolve conflicts, and overall increase the camaraderie of the dorm. One of my friends, Ryan Dahlberg, after living off campus the year prior, has become a first time RA for his final year at NU. As a senior living in the halls of an all-freshmen dorm, I was interested to learn how he’s liked it so far.
Taylor: So why did you decide to be an RA for your final year?
Ryan: I wanted to find a way to stay engaged in the Northwestern community and felt that living on campus would be a great way to do so. I looked to the RA position as a way to meet new people, impart my three years of knowledge onto my residents, and give back to a community that has already given me so much.
Taylor: I feel like there would be a lot of challenges as a first-time RA. What has been your greatest one?
Ryan: So I live in Elder Hall, a residential community made up of solely freshman. I’m a senior. This makes for a very large age/maturity/knowledge/experience gap between the two parties. I think bridging that gap and forming positive, meaningful connections with my residents was probably the most difficult but also the most rewarding and fun aspect of my job.
Taylor: So to help with that, what’s been the best bonding activity with your floor?
Ryan: I’m trying to think back to some of my favorite moments during the year. One tradition that stands out to me was our consistent excursions to Cheesie’s, a staple restaurant in downtown Evanston. Every Wednesday night, Cheesie’s would have half priced sandwiches. Many of my residents and I would religiously make the weekly trip to this fine dining establishment and consume what can only be described as health reincarnated as a sandwich (note: he’s being sarcastic here, pictures of the creations can be found here). More than these trips though, I think my floor really bonded through much simpler activities. Hanging out in the lounge playing darts, grabbing lunch in the dining hall, and chatting in each others’ rooms have really brought us much closer.
Taylor: Aww you love your residents. This may be kind of obvious now, but how/do you think it’s affected your senior year?
Ryan: At the most trivial level, it has been nice not having to clean or maintain an off campus apartment or house. As a young male in his early 20s trying to enjoy college, that just doesn’t sound appealing. However, it goes much deeper than my inherent laziness. I’ve been able to make connections with people that I never would have met had I not been an RA. Whether it’s the members on my RA staff or the freshmen in my hallway, I can honestly say that I have formed many lasting and meaningful relationships. I often get made fun of by my peers for “only having freshmen friends.” It’s partially true. It has been difficult maintaining friendships with those outside of my Elder bubble. However, I still try to remain active in the upperclassmen social scene when time permits.
Taylor: That’s awesome. Anything else I should know? What else do you do on campus? Anything you’re looking forward to after you graduate?
Ryan: As of the moment, I’m just crossing my fingers that I graduate (another note: he’s lying. Ryan is already in med school and graduating a quarter early). But no, in all honesty, I’m really just looking forward to using these last couple months to revisit old friendships and spend time with people before we all embark on our own journeys. My next four years are to be consumed by medical school. I’m definitely looking forward to this rewarding opportunity but at the same time, am intimidated. Oh well, should be fun.