College students can be a strange breed. They have been known to come up with unique traditions and habits that would seem entirely bizarre to an outsider, such as midnight karaoke in Dykstra Hall or a late-night run with fellow Durfee Hall men through the snow in much less clothing than is normally recommended. These wacky activities are known best by those entrusted with the safety and entertainment of Hope College residents: Resident Assistants. Four RAs from various halls around campus helped us gain an insight into their experience with the responsibility and fun involved in this position. Kara Dahlenburg (’21) of Phelps Hall has so far enjoyed her time as a RA, getting to know residents and caring for them as they venture through the college experience.
She described her passion for people, and how this role has been able to fulfill her desire to “provide a safe place for people to come to with problems or issues, or just to walk through life together.” When reminiscing some of the quirky things Phelps residents have been known to do, Dahlenburg remembered a time when a male resident had placed a container of sardines outside of their door, leading to a very distinct smell on one of her nightly rounds through the hall. Dahlenburg has planned many events for her residents throughout the year, but her favorite so far happened to be one that she felt was less planned than the rest: an open house at the beginning of first semester, when residents were able to wander through the hall to introduce themselves and share their rooms with each other. In the future, Dahlenburg would love to put on an event involving a slip ’n slide in the Pine Grove, an amusing and fun way to bond with her residents. In the world of Kollen Hall, RAs Kori Lafontant (’20) and Jimmy Cerone (’21) have a different perspective on being a resident assistant. Cerone has found that his relationship with residents is like being “a mix of a dad and a big brother; you are able to support and guide them through difficult times, but also have lots of fun in the meantime.”
One of Lafontant’s favorite Kollen events so far has been a game of sardines throughout the entirety of Kollen Hall. Cerone remembers a RA-sponsored pizza eating contest during his sophomore year that was one of his favorites; he got to watch some of his residents get “very comfortable with each other” as they partnered up and fed each other excessive amounts of pizza in a short amount of time. When asked about what event they would plan in an ideal world, Cerone thought back to a campuswide capture the flag game that he would “love to recreate” from his days as a freshman Durfee resident for those he lives with now in Kollen. In another pocket of campus, Dykstra has gained an amazing new RA this semester: Kelly Piering (’21). Although she only began this position at the beginning of spring semester, Piering has already gained an appreciation for the friendships residence life has helped her grow.
Piering’s residents include freshmen from all different corners of Hope College, clustered together by Dykstra’s unique dorm setup. Piering loves the experience of “coming into this space of chaos and just [being] present” with her residents, a unique and meaningful position. Throughout the learning process, Piering is thankful to have the support of her hall’s thirteen RAs that are always willing to give advice. Piering said, “I don’t think anyone really knows what they’re doing as an RA. It’s very much learning on your feet.” When asked about what she would plan as a dream event, Piering shared her unique idea for “pillow fighting in the Pine Grove,” or an all hall Nerf-gun battle she jokingly called “Cluster Hunger Games,” two ideas students would likely embrace with enthusiasm. Over the past month, the interview process has been going on for students hoping to become RAs next year.
Some of the RA veterans gave a piece of advice to the newbies to keep in mind as they learn about the position. In Lafontant’s words, it is important to “listen to people. All people.” Dahlenburg said that “being an RA is what you make of it; you have the option to be super open to your residents. Think beforehand about your visions and goals for the future, and then make it happen.” Life as a resident assistant provides a unique, fulfilling experience for students of Hope College looking to build close relationships and experience dorm living in all its glory.