Though I was terrified before I started, during the second year of my Masters I was a residence don, an experience that was an intense education on how to build a community and support others. Helping students build like-minded friendships, resolve conflicts, succeed academically and avoid unhelpful social behaviours (along with the million and one other things you find yourself doing as a residence advisor) taught me so much. Above all though, it taught me that with warmth, love, good intentions and smiles, it is possible to help others, even when you don’t have all the skills and answers at the outset. Determination, not perfection is what is needed, and all personality types (even the introverted ones) can serve others.
It also taught me that helping is a two way process. Throughout the year, whether it was in tea chats at my apartment, ice cream socials in the hallway, dinners in the cafeteria, or any other interaction, I felt so so blessed to be given the opportunity to work with the amazing 17-20 year olds on my floor. They were interesting, ambitious, courageous women, and I learnt so much more from them than any contributions I was able to make. In truth, we helped each other grow.
These lessons are relevant for any community planner, and to remind myself to keep these learnings alive, I thought I’d outline some of the things being a don taught me about helping other people. For the residence advisors out there, what would you add to this list?