Living in a college residence hall next year? It’s a good bet you will have an RA, or resident assistant, assigned to your building or floor. This is someone you should definitely get to know. He or she is usually an upperclassman who lives in one of the dorm rooms and is there to enforce the rules but also to help the residents with whatever they need.
An RA is someone you can talk to if you’re homesick or having roommate problems. He or she can also answer any questions you have about college life.
I was lucky to serve as an RA for two years at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., which has students from more than 50 countries. I talked with a lot of students who were far from home and at times had trouble adjusting to life in a dorm room. Here are some of the survival tips I shared:
Don’t Just Shout. Talk It Out
Even if you knew your roommate beforehand, living with him (or her) will be completely different. You could move in with a stranger and have it be the best living situation ever. Or you could live with your best friend of 10 years and have it be the worst.
The key to making it work is communication. If there’s a problem, ALWAYS talk it out with your roommate first. If you still have problems after talking, look to your RA for help — especially if you think you need to change rooms or roommates.
Make Your Room Represent YOU
Your dorm room isn’t just the place where you sleep or study. It’s your home. Make it as YOU as it can be. Show your personality. Put up the posters your mom never let you put up at home. Add a rug or colorful pillows. Do whatever you can to make your room a comfortable place so you’ll feel right at home.
A Clean Room Is a Happy Room
Cleanliness is important. Whether you share a space with one person or seven, you should have a cleaning schedule. Don’t fall into a situation where one person is always cleaning up after the others just because that person is a neat freak. Establish a schedule that can be followed by everyone so that your room or suite is always clean.
Keep in mind that if your room is a mess when you leave at the end of the semester, you may be charged a cleaning fee.
Snack Time Is the Best Time
Some colleges have dining 24 hours a day, while others offer no food after midnight. Have snacks on hand because you will get hungry during those late-night homework adventures. You don’t always have to eat ramen noodles! Try healthier snacks such as granola bars, fruit and yogurt. Watch out for that Freshman 15! (And remember that the Freshman 15 — gaining 15 pounds — doesn’t apply only to freshman.)
Be Open to Differences
College is the place to expand your horizons and get to know about other cultures. One of the great things about living in a residence hall is that you’ll probably meet people from other countries who were raised differently than you were. You may see students who dress in a different manner or eat different foods.
Don’t dismiss people based on their differences. Instead, try to get to know these students and learn something new. You never know. That guy or girl down the hall might turn out to be one of those lifelong friends from college that people are always talking about!