When I applied to be an HA, I thought that it would be just like doing Customs, only a little more involved and with an increased number of responsibilities. No problem! I had a wonderful experience as a Customs Person, being an HA couldn't be that different, could it? I should have known that my estimations of my role as an HA were a little misconstrued when, during HA training, a second-year HA reminded us that it was our right NOT to answer the phone or the knocks at our door.
There were definitely some problems which I did not and could not anticipate. I had a very small, friendly hall and I honestly really liked everyone on the hall. However, some women had many serious issues that they needed to deal with and came to me for help in doing this. Although I was more than happy to offer them my time, some days I was so tired of dealing with everyone else's problems that I didn't feel like going back to my room, knowing that all these problems were waiting for me.
This brings me to my first point - take care of yourself and set limits. This was something that was, and still is, difficult for me. It is always hard for me to try to politely usher a crying person out of my room at one in the morning because I had an exam at eight the next day and needed to get some sleep.
In addition, don't forget all of the resources that are available. One that I used often was the other HAs. They are useful to vent to, to bounce ideas off of, and for general moral support. I used my fellow HAs often and without them, I don't think that I would have made it through the first semester. They were always understanding and deeply sympathetic. Area groups is another good source to use to discuss any problems or issues on your hall. Also remember that you are not a counselor, so send them to a professional if they have a serious problem. In addition, the Deans and the Health Center are always available for advice, so don't hesitate to call any of them.
Although there were many times when I was frustrated, all of the good moments outweighed any stressful ones. When one of the frosh on my hall, who is an international student, hugged me before she left for break, and told me that she wouldn't have been able to get through the adjustment of her first semester without me, all of the frustrations associated with my hall vanished.
Although it may seem trite, as a result of all of the different types of experiences on my hall, I found out a lot about myself and my personality. In analyzing the manner in which I handled situations, I discovered my weaknesses and strengths in dealing with people. Recognizing these, I can now more effectively cope with the situations that arise in every day life. Some of the most useful techniques for an HA are simply to be a good listener and to think rationally about the problem.
No one can prepare for every situation that occurs on the hall. The best thing that an HA can do is to be friendly and establish some sort of relationship with everyone on the hall. I think that you can have a good year if you use common sense and just have fun with the job.