One of the responsibilities associated with being a residential assistant that I find somewhat challenging is the expectation and need to find out about one’s residents and relate with them, or at least help them with their individual and unique challenges. Every person has unique characteristics, features, and even thoughts that make them who they are, and some require more attention than others. Disabilities, handicaps, and a lack of privileges include traits that require excess help and assistance and are vital characteristics that an assistant should be aware of.
Talking over this subject in class, we were challenged to examine these traits and glance through the eyes of another. Since most in our class are not under-privileged or handicapped, it is more difficult for us to imagine life as a person who is, yet we are still expected to be able to do so, and not only that, but also to act on this realization. Although I feel that I am an incredibly empathic person and am easily able to understand others and know how they are feeling or thinking, I, too, have difficulties at times really taking myself out of my personal context and looking through the perspective of another.
It helps that I am only a sophomore who just recently turned nineteen years old because it makes me just a little bit more similar to most of the residents on my floor. A majority of them are nineteen-year-old freshmen, just out of college and ready to experience and live their new college lives. Although I’ve already experienced a year in college, I am still pretty young and still adjusting to this newfound freedom and can more easily relate to what they’re experiencing, thinking, and feeling.
I am also the resident assistant, though, which can make some residents feel awkward to talk to or relate with. I’ve noticed the difference already. I am living on the same floor of the same residence hall as I did last year, only now I’m the one in charge, and suddenly…I’m not invited to movie nights anymore and people are more nervous about inviting me into their rooms. I can understand that it’s not always fun to “hang with a cop,” but this only makes the goal of getting to personally know the individualities of my residents even more difficult.
It still interests and intrigues me to think that although all of my residents are in the same place doing the same thing, they have all come from different starting points, different backgrounds, different life stories. There are some that have followed a smooth, simple path, while others have trudged across a vigorous obstacle course in order to get here. It amazes me to think that there are some who may have overcome incredible challenges or have made profound choices in their lives.
As of now, I am not aware of any major disability or tragedy that any of my residents have lived through or are currently experiencing. Speaking with my residents each time they pass by my open door or I catch them in the elevator, I continue to get to know them and to swap life stories as the year progresses. I have made it my goal to know each resident on my floor and to at least be “Facebook Friend” status with each one by the time they move out. I want to be a friendly peer they can turn to and I want to understand their differences and help them in any way that I can. I simply want to know my residents and respect who they are as unique individuals.