Being a successful, happy HA is all about balance. The HA is everything wrapped in to one college student. What I mean by that is that you will find yourself serving as a facilitator, peer, mentor, tutor, housekeeper, medic, advisor - I can go on.
It is important to be realistic about your role, but sometimes you won’t realize what you have signed up for until you assume your role – you will essentially be on-call all the time, for example. At times throughout the year, you will feel overwhelmed and unable to help people. You will not always have the answer to all the questions your residents ask. You may have residents who will get upset with you and subsequently avoid you because they did not like what you had to say to them. You might feel that all you do is “dirty work” in terms of confrontation and decision-making. And maybe, hall tea planning is more party planning to you than anything else. Some resident may come to you essentially asking you to solve their problems for them. Others are simply interested in having someone to talk with. In some cases, you will never know when, how, or to what extent you have impacted a resident. You won’t always get the thank you or the credit for th e work you put in – other times you get too much credit. But let’s not forget about how rewarding your job is. You are the person someone will want, need, and appreciate the most in times of need. Your knowledge on the various resources on campus, which will serve not only your residents, but you well. As an HA you are part of a huge social circle of diverse students. You get the opportunity to learn about interesting things happening in other people’s lives. If I were not an HA, there is no way I would have met as many freshmen as I have. You will find that your role as an HA extend beyond just your residents. Through area groups, 1-1 meetings with advisors, and dorm-wide activities, your work affects the resident on the halls above yours, or the HA in the dorm on the other side of campus.
Each community and hall is different year to year, and one advice I would like to give is not to have too many expectations about your residents before interacting with them. Don’t take things too personally and remember that you are a fellow resident before you are an HA. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t sacrifice spontaneity and experimentation for perfection.
Remember that you have a plethora of resources to pick and choose from – other HA’s and the ResLife, Campus Safety, The Health Center, your DLT team. You have been endowed with an enormous responsibility, but also the agency to affect your residents, the community, and your school in a positive way.