Day 31: As nervous and as anxious as I was for today to come, I made it through it without a scratch. It was exhilarating to experience the other side of student staff training. For three years, I spent it being the one who sat in the crowd with the rest of my student staff peers. I was the one who listened as ProStaff talked and explained anything and everything I needed to know. Being on the flip side and being the one that they ask questions from is an interesting feeling. While a part of me will sometimes feel shaken up because I’m unsure where to turn to or how to answer, my RD is there and ready to back me up or swoop in. Then I don’t feel so alone or challenged. Today was simple. It was easy. It was a good start. I know it’ll get harder as time continues and as residents get here. For now, it’s pretty amazing to get to spend 2 weeks with the RAs and being the facilitator — for the most part.
Day 32: Today was a change. Today I was thrown into the middle of the boxing ring in what would be the center of this entire year for my role as an ARD. If there’s one thing I’m sure of from these past 2 months I’ve been here, it’s that I probably cannot count the number of hours I spent working on my Engagement Model. It is the heart and soul of everything that will be done programming wise from my side of the coin. And today, I was FINALLY able to present my Engagement Model to my RA team. Luckily, I had positive feedback from them even if I could see the fear in their eyes. Honestly, I think I would’ve cried (internally) if my Engagement Model didn’t turn out as well to my RAs when I presented it to them. Especially because programming was my entire life for three years of college. Besides presenting this Engagement Model, my team got to watch a video of me as a supporting character in the role of a resident. And no, it’s not up for an Oscar award.
Day 33: Going from all the fun and fluffy stuff that is engagement and programming to the heaviness that is Mental Health Day, took a lot more out of me than I thought it would. I thought I would be able to survive this day and make it through without a scratch. I was wrong. It wasn’t because it’s a hard topic for me to listen to or to discuss. It’s actually because it’s hard for me to watch those around me be affected by certain topics or mental health challenges while I am not being able to find a way to help them the way I wish I could. Nonetheless, I did the best I could to be there for my team and to support them as they needed me because at that point in time, that was really all that I could do. To be as supportive as I could possibly be and be a shoulder to lean on or arms to hug.
Day 34: I made it to Friday. We made it to Friday. Given this was a shorter one because we had labor day off, but still we got to be proud of the little things – even if it’s being proud that we made it to Friday. Today was easy. My RD and I went shopping for food and snacks because we were going to be away for the weekend. It’s Team Training and Development weekend; we went to Oxnard at a BEAUTIFUL hotel next to beach and had a luxurious stay while we were there. While we were there, we got to really bond with the RAs and get to know their story, where they come from, and really what they bring to this new experience. We stayed up a lot later than I anticipated, but it was worth it.
Day 35: A Saturday. Yup, I work on weekends sometimes. The day started with more bonding activities with the team, but still had some logistical aspects to it. However larger part of the day had us in a service project where we were serving food to homeless or underserved people. This opened my eyes, once again, to the reality that not everyone has the privilege that I have. In a way it almost brought me to tears because I was once in a spot where food and money were scarce and my mom, being a single mother, couldn’t always provide me everything I needed. I was reminded how incredibly blessed I have been because of all the opportunities that I now have in front of me. I am with a degree from a prestigious research university with a roof over my head, food in my stomach, clothing on my skin, and so much more. I have a job that I wake up excited for every day in my life. I wish it was more of a possibility to share all my blessings in some way, shape, or form, but it’s not financially possible for now. So until I am able to, I will continue to be respectful human that it was raised to be.
Day 36: I got to rest on at least one of the weekend days because my RD and I are all about self-care and mental health. Also, our sleep. Our return dives right into the two days of Social Justice topics. I opened for Social Justice today. I was the very first speaker and I was incredibly terrified. It wasn’t because I didn’t know how to stand in front of a crowd to give my talk, but because I was sharing a piece of myself I wouldn’t normally share with a crown of nearly 450+ unknown faces. Even though I was only up on that stage for six minutes, I did it. I shared a part of my story and not too long after I realize that I really made an impact on some of the people in the crowd. What made it so easy to feel relieved instead of feeling scared that I’d be judged was that even though I wasn’t someone who they knew personally, I had a story that was relatable and in a way, gave them hope that you could get through your challenges. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Always.
Day 37: Another Social Justice day. Unless you make yourself aware, you won’t become aware. Unless someone handed to you to learn and become familiar with information pertaining to today’s issues, you still won’t become aware if you choose to turn the other way and ignore what’s in front of you. So if you’re wondering why we gave our students two days of Social Justice training, it’s because we want them to be aware as they are going to be amongst 13,000+ people in On Campus Housing and will be serving a percentage of them. Them not being aware, them not being presented with the resources to be aware, and them not having the people to support them to be aware can be the reason that they can’t provide a safe and nurturing environment to the students they serve.
Day 38: I was really inspired today because the new RAs had Duty training in the way that most schools will not have their Judy training. It was formatted in an “escape room” style, put together by one of my fellow ARDs Who went to a conference about escape rooms, and brought back an amazing experience where he created his own escape room style for the new RAs to be trained on. There are people who are artistically creative, but this was a new level of creativity that I was incredibly mesmerized by.
Day 39: This day started off with one of the most incredibly serious topics that Residential Life will sometimes have to face. While it was something that I was already prepared for because it was a training that I was already put through, I didn’t realize that today was going to be a day where I would feel so much amazement for one of my colleagues. He shared a story that I know I could never do in the way that he did. To him, he loves being able to share his story because it inspires other people and because it has taught him to grow in so many ways, but I am captivated by the strength and bravery encourage it took him to be able to tell his story because I don’t think it something that I could do.
Day 40: We made it to yet another Friday. I actually thought this day would never come because it’s been a VERY long week. But today has always been one of my favorite days as part of RA training. It’s called Behind Closed Doors. In simpler and more explanatory terminology, it’s a stimulation that are new RA’s go through where they experience what it would be like if they were responding to a Duty situation. The actual simulation isn’t hard part. Most times, the hardest part of it is how sensitive certain topics can be and even with such stimulation, we can never be as prepared as we wish we could be because every situation happens differently. Rather, we give the RAs an opportunity to somewhat prepare themselves for what could happen in this year. If you didn’t get the chance to be an RA or simply didn’t know what it was like to be a one, I can tell you that it’s a challenging but rewarding experience.
I had the weekend off (for the most part).
Day 41: Fall Kickoff. Basically, we celebrated the end of training. We made it!
Day 42: I spent all day working on a passive board. I’m proud of it.
Day 43: I discovered my RAs and RGCs can bake really creatively in an edition of Cupcake Wars. Yup, you should be jealous.
Day 44-46: Friday to Sunday. Yep, another weekend I’m working. That’s Residential Life for you. It was move-in weekend. In other words, I was overwhelmed to see 13,000 people moving into on-campus housing. Mind you, I came from a school where we only moved in about 1800 people over three days because were smaller community. There were different halls and communities in different locations. However, on this campus, 13,000 people live on The Hill. Was I overwhelmed? You bet. What I do it all over again? Heck yeah. Nothing exhilarates me more than seeing the residents be excited for a new year. I live for the experience; it’s probably why work in Residential Life. Beyond move-in weekend, I think the investment that the school has to create a very different and eye-opening experience for the residence from the very first day is incredibly inspiring. “This is Bruin Life” may have been really extra, but it was a good kind of extra. The Westwood Block Party was really damn extra, but it’s a really great example of where Residential Life really shows how much they care about their residents’ experience. That’s the kind of stuff I live for.
So I’m writing this as I hit my 2 months being a Bruin (and accepting that I now am a Bruin and an Anteater Alum). Two wholesome months and my heart is so full. It used to just come from my fellow Residential Life Professional Staff team. When the student staff got here, I got a real feel for what it meant to be on the other side of the experience. Now that the residents are here, I’m fighting the lines in the dining commons for the best food on a college campus in the nation. Safe to say… I love my job.
Until next time,
ARD Jamrensze “J-Mi” De Leon