RAs tasked with making students feel at home away from home

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By Noel Ceriani

UNIVERSITY CITY, SHARJAH – Residential halls at the American University of Sharjah employ a total of 32 resident assistants for both men and women’s dorms. But what do they actually do and what are the benefits of this job?

“My responsibility is to create an environment that’s comfortable and feels like home,” said Resident Assistant Maria Frazao, “keeping in mind that people are far from home so they might miss their family and friends. We are in charge of making you not feel alone, especially with COVID, we send texts and we have Zoom calls with residents.” 

Frazao added that they also do events for the community, decorate the residential halls with posters, and work in the front desk as the supervisor’s assistant.

Every two weeks, each resident assistant must write a report on his or her interaction with students, the problems they faced, and general feedback for the dorms. 

There are activities every month in the dorms with different themes. January’s theme was coronavirus prevention and February’s was about mental health and wellbeing. Each resident assistant hosts one activity for fun and one for self-development.

“Each activity is about something that helps the residents. This month I chose a self-care event and mental health related event,” said Frazao. 

Women’s Complex Manager Abigail Smith said to become a resident assistant students must submit an application, go through an interview and have lived on campus for at least one semester. 

“I applied and had to do five essay questions, each of 100 to 150 words,” said Resident Assistant Dana Maalouf. “They are about the amount of people you know, how you interact with people, and if you’re outgoing and social. If so, you could get shortlisted for an interview which goes more into more detail of these questions.” 

Smith added that once students are chosen, they work for two semesters at a time and are compensated with a free single room as well as skills and experiences that they can take to their future careers.

“The dorms being free was beneficial for my parents, especially since the university is not cheap and I have a sibling who goes to another university,” added Maalouf. “I feel like I make my parents proud and it makes me happy that I get to help people.”