There you are, it’s 2am on a Wednesday and you’re stumbling out of Bar 101 trying to make it back to your hall. Unfortunately, you drank a bit too much and after falling down twice on your way back, with your poor girlfriend struggling to keep you upright, you swayed on up Symonds Street through campus. Feeling dizzy, you sit down on the pavement and pull out your phone. Scrolling through your contacts you find the number which you probably thought you’d never need.
One short phone-call later, you look up and see a pair of Residential Advisors (R.As) gassing it up the hill looking wide-awake and cherry. As they help you back home they start chatting to you about your night.
5 minutes later, you’re tucked into your bed, a now partially used bucket next to you and a full glass of water sitting on your desk. Just a regular night for both first-years and the R.As helping them.
At the University of Auckland, there are around 90 R.As living and working in UoA accommodation every year. As live-in staff they work as mentors fulfilling a pastoral care role for students. A large number of the R.As live in the four first-year hall of residences; Waiparuru, O’Rorke, Grafton and University Hall Towers. While another group of R.As live in the mixed-year halls; Carlaw Park, Grafton Student Flats, University Hall Apartments, Te Tirohanga and 55 Symonds.
Being an R.A meant waking up every morning to a floor full of surprises. There was always something happening on my floor, especially after a town night. I always knew it had been a busy night out when I would bump into the occasional “overnight guest” leaving the floor or bathroom the next day. Though perhaps more amusing was watching two residents of the same floor leave a room in the morning, both looking extremely guilty at the often forgiven sin of *floorcest*. While drama may have been caused by such acts, halls are filled with people just trying to figure themselves out—which often resulted in a lot happening behind closed bedroom doors.
The surprises also came in questions asked by my residents. Not entirely sure of who I was and what I was doing in their first year, they had their own opinions and theories about the job as an R.A. The most ludicrous one was my residents asking me where I lived—having thought I commuted into the hall every day at 6am and finished well past midnight, Mon through Sun. Despite seeing my furnished and decorated bedroom.
Now living away from home and away from structured schooling with in some cases a lot of free time and a lot of money creates its own unique set of challenges to navigate as an R.A. You want the best for them but they may not feel the same way. On multiple occasions I would be
leaving for class and upon walking down the corridor at 11am I’m met with some members of my floor having their 3rd crate of the week. They would always invite me to join in but I always said no, much to their disappointment and my amusement. It was hard sometimes though to put down the feeling that I should get involved and stop them from drinking all day. However, they may be idiots but they’re still adults who are responsible for their own choices and subsequent consequences. That was one of the biggest lessons I learnt whilst being an R.A, is learning when to be the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cop and how to nurture healthy living habits in those I looked after.
Part of the resident advisor’s role is to combat the unhealthy habits some residents unfortunately experience. With the accommodation team in each building, R.A’s keep an eye out for students who are socially isolated from their floors, who are abusing alcohol, or are engaging in any other unsafe or concerning behaviours. These residents are then flagged and then action is taken to address the resident’s behaviours such as engaging with UoA Health and Counselling, to other actions such as enforcing an alcohol ban.
Students, especially those living far from home and family in university accommodation, can feel isolated quite quickly. With large accommodation buildings holding hundreds of students, it’s easy for students to feel lost and unnoticed in the crowds. This can lead to unsafe and unhealthy habits forming, particularly binge-drinking which is often a result of deteriorating mental health. It’s extremely hard not to fall back on yourself at the end of the day and to feel alone.
My advice for those struggling to get out of that headspace is to set little goals each day and to create a positive healthy rhythm. Start with the basics, like going outside for 15 minutes to half an hour each day to then going to one class a week and increasing it from there. It’s hard to adjust to the world with all of its noise and shock therapy isn’t the solution to helping you deal with a busy university life. If you’re a resident at a hall of residence and you feel isolated or lonely, going to your R.A is one of the best things you can do. There is not a single R.A who doesn’t want the best for their residents, and asking for help is the greatest first step you can make so that way the hall and your R.A can support you and help you.
The job of resident advisor is just as chaotic and work-life balance destroying as any other job you might have.. You will have residents come to your door at 2am to let you know that they’ve locked themselves out of their room on the night before your first exam. Freshers will lock themselves out of anything at any time you will come to realise. They will even lock themselves out of their rooms during an online exam somehow only to hysterically call you to let them back in.
If you like a challenge and enjoy working with students, this job is for you. You will have sleepless nights but the feeling of seeing your residents succeed and grow will give you the proud parent feels. They may not be your children but you’ll be just as happy to hear that they got into med and are living their best lives.
All the Best,
Craccums resident residential advisor.