Residential assistants help students navigate difficulties of freshman year

Posted January 30, 2015


At the beginning of your first semester as a freshman, moving into a dorm room seems exciting, nerve-racking yes, but thrilling none the less. There is buzzing all around you, being entrapped in 18 1/2 by 10 foot room seems like more of an adventure rather than your new lifestyle.

However, when you return from your holiday and enter your second semester the excitement seems to have faded. The homesickness and the discomfort of having to re-adjust to your new home takes control. This continues until you step onto your floor and turn around only to see that there is suddenly a cool new theme matched with the quirky motivational quotes in the bathroom stalls.

You can argue that your parents did a lot for you, but did they put motivational quotes in your toilet? Probably not. So who is this mysterious person that decorates your floor and puts motivational signs on your toilet doors?

Most of us know this person as a Resident Assistant (RA) that one person on your floor who is always there for you and seems to be the only one who knows how to help you navigate the turbulent waters of freshman year.

What exactly does an RA do?

Kimberly Meichtry, a junior majoring in architectural engineering who has been an RA for two years, explained her role.

“Although, initially, it was about the financial support the role offered, overtime I realized that the it was a lot more rewarding for me personally. I always liked helping people and being able to support others made me feel more fulfilled as a person,” she explained. “Being an RA is not dissimilar from being a parent. I genuinely care about the well-being of the individuals on this floor, I want them to succeed and I want to be there for them when they struggle. I try to do whatever I can for the people at the University of Miami. Being a freshman is tough and often times in your college experience you remember your first RA and it is nice to think that I am a part of their college memories.”

Peyton Pullen, an undeclared freshman, said her RA makes a difference in her campus life.

“The fact that Kim is not a member of faculty makes her less intimidating, she is just another student, an older and wiser student, and someone you are not afraid to build a relationship with. Sometimes we jokingly call her Mom, but at the root of it, that is how we genuinely feel, because she is always there for us, to listen us or to offer us guidance,” Pullen explained.

Another fellow floormate is Stephanie Scuotto, a freshman majoring in biochemistry, and she says she appreciates what her RA does every day.

“She is the type of person who is always looking out for us,” Scuotto stated. “She spends time decorating our floor and laying out the themes with details like inspiring quotes in the toilets! In a way it makes the floor and the rooms feel less like jail cells and more like our own space.”

Intrigued by the location of the wall quotes, Meichtry was asked to explain her decision.

“I have inspiring quotes in my room,” Meichtry said. “That is an added detail that is very much a part of my life and helps motivate me to be successful. I remember my freshman RA had funny cartoons on the door of our toilets and in a way that is a secret tradition I’ve carried on, it is something that the other floors do not have. What it does is create a personal space and environment for the girls to succeed, even if it is placed in the most surprising of places.”

RAs try their best to echo the security and well being that freshman miss when away from home. Whether it is in the details of the decorations, the inclusion in floor events or simply a trusted person to confide in. They are the individuals that help build and support your home away from home.