Sum400 Reflection #1
My first year as a Resident Assistant here at Agnes Scott was somewhat of a roller coaster ride. My time as part of a team comprised of two RAs living (and working) on the third floor of a first year residence hall, supervising and advising somewhere around 40 students, was challenging, at times chaotic, and ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Tasked with building community among a group of newly arrived, overwhelmed, enthusiastic, and anxious individuals was no 100-yard dash; it was a marathon that lasted from August to May of the following year. Over the course of that period, I learned how to handle everything from medical emergencies, mental health emergencies, to your average roommate conflict. I was challenged and forced to grow in ways I hadn’t previously thought possible. Living and working with a diverse group of people, from different backgrounds, countries, and experiences, made me step back and analyze my own leadership style. While some residents responded well to my typical loud, bubbly, and enthusiastic “we’re all in this together,” camp-counselor esque style of leadership, others needed someone less in your face, a quieter, more reserved leader who responded to what they brought to the conversation, rather than someone who attempted to set the conversation’s path from the outset.
As an RA, I learned not only how to tailor my own leadership style to specific situations, conversations, and interactions, but also that I excel in areas of leadership that I hadn’t previously considered. I can be (and am) more than the stereotypical, loud, large and in charge leader. I can be supportive, I can lead by example without ever saying a word; I can lead by helping others lead, by supporting them in their own endeavors. And perhaps most importantly, I learned the power of asking for help. Being a leader doesn’t mean that everything falls squarely on your shoulders; you may be the first person someone comes to for help or as a source of guidance, but you are by no means required to be the last. Being an RA requires that we recognize when we are out of our depth. It makes us look at a situation and step in to assist, or as is often the case, take a step back and say “Wow. I’m out of my depth here. Let me ask for help.” Learning this as an underclasswoman, that not only is it okay to ask for help, but that it’s actually a positive thing, absolutely changed my outlook on leadership. My vision of a leader is no longer the proverbial lighthouse, shining bright to bring everyone home, but rather a tree in a garden, standing tall and helping meet the needs of those around it, whether it be shade from the sun, a branch to lean on, or a place to call home. I no longer envision my leadership journey as a solitary one; rather, it’s a path that I, along with many others, will take and shape along the way, both individually and as a community collaborating together.
I know that my experiences as an RA, both in my first year and beyond, will continue to inform and shape the way I view and experience leadership, both here at Agnes Scott and outside in the broader world, wherever my path takes me.