By ERYNN SENDRICK
This is my second year working in Residence Life as an SRA, third as an RA, and there are moments when I wonder why I’ve agreed to come back year after year. I’m sure this is true for every job – there are times when your stress level is ridiculous, things keep popping up, and you’re wondering why everything seems to constantly be a mess.
Fellow RAs can probably relate, and I know there are other students thinking, “Why would you ever be an RA?” It can be challenging work, but I know that I am an RA because of the valuable and genuine relationships I form with my staff members, the marketable skills and leadership experiences I’ve gained, because of the new students I meet every year who embrace my annoying attempts to engage in conversations with them and eventually realize that I’m a student too, a real person, and they come to value my presence on their hall. I am constantly meeting new faces and forming new relationships, and I can’t walk across campus without seeing someone I know, and I love that – it’s what makes Mary Wash feel like home. But this isn’t about me being an RA.
Although there are frustrating moments, what bothers me the most is when other people complain about Residence Life. Living on campus has greatly, and uniquely, contributed to my experience at UMW. Fire drills are annoying and quiet hours are early, but living in a hall all four years was one of the best decisions I made during my college career.
Being in college is about BEING in college. Don’t just go to class and go out and party. I tell my residents all the time – get involved! There is no other point in your life where it is easier to be a part of something bigger than yourself, to expand your network, to really learn outside of a classroom setting. Living on campus allows me to easily participate in college life, to be a part of Mary Wash traditions, to meet new students who aren’t my grad year or major. I don’t have to pay monthly electric bills or figure out who to call when the toilet breaks.
I know that the UMW Police Department is readily available to ensure my safety, and I know that the fire alarms and extinguishers are up to date and functioning in case I am ever in danger. I have a five minutes walk to class instead of a 15 minute drive, I don’t have to plan my life around when I’ll be on campus, and I can easily open my door and see 40 other familiar and friendly faces. I am here and contributing to the culture and environment of the university that has helped me become the person I am today. Mary Wash is home, why wouldn’t I want to live here?
Are there pros and cons to both options? Absolutely. Each individual should decide what is best for them. But before you completely write off living in a residence hall, consider how your experience could be positively impacted. Think of what you can allow yourself to accomplish by being present and involved. I live on campus because I have to for my job. But I love living on campus because it allows me to truly be a part of my Mary Wash.