“Well, you have to like people, and you have to be able to put up with a lot of dumb shit, and I mean really dumb stuff,” said Nick Colsch, as he put down his coffee while reading at the Java House. It’s all a part of the job of being what students call an “R.A.,” or Resident Assistant in University of Iowa student housing.
Colsch has been an R.A. for three years, working in Currier Hall and now Mayflower. After three years on the frontline, Colsch is full of stories. One of the more ridiculous experiences he has had to tolerate involved a case of oranges.
“I was compacting trash, and some f***er-resident decided to take out their screen and throw oranges at me. It’s January. I saw this orange crushed. They were throwing oranges from their window,” says Colsch.
Colsch notices a difference in the atmosphere between residence halls. “In Currier the demographic is radically different than Mayflower. A lot of kids often sign up for Currier and Hillcrest largely because of the quiet atmosphere. It’s more of a studying environment. Mayflower is the last kids to register. We have a large number of international students. It’s a zoo more than a residence hall.”
Both residence halls were searched back in April, and at least 13 students from both Currier and Mayflower were found to be in possession of marijuana. This doesn’t come as any surprise to Nick, who as an R.A. has had to intervene in rooms where students have drugs and alcohol against dorm rules. “[The] discipline level is a lot worse out in Mayflower, partly because they have kitchens, and can hide stuff. They want to seem older, so alcohol appeals to them.”
Colsch says the R.A. program has changed since he started working severak years ago. Instead of being focused on programs or activities for students living in the halls for participation, he says the training relies more on instructing R.A.s how to be more sociable, and have a hospitable presence when talking to students.
However, R.A.s can still use programs if they’d like. “It really depends on your style as an R.A. Some R.A.’s kind of program like crazy, and the residents like it, and that just works for that floor,” says John Komdat, an R.A. on Currier’s second floor. Komdat has worked with Colsch before in R.A. training, and says Nick’s style wouldn’t work for everyone. “The way that he makes the job work for him takes intelligence, and intentionality. He’s a character. I think most people would agree.”
I’ve been getting into really old Motown. The Four Tops and the Spinners, the Supremes
“I’ve been running a lot.”
Coffee (if you call that a food)
Nick has a wicked sense of humor that gets him through most on-the-job challenges. He thinks with a little more practice, those irritating residents in Mayflower hurling oranges out the window at him could become “bombers.” Still, while Nick has a personality that almost any resident can get along with, there is a stereotype that he knows makes him stand out. Being an R.A., says Nick, “pulls you out of a normal life for a year, because you’re looked at like a fish. You’re introduced first as an R.A. rather than by your name.”
While Nick says he has enjoyed the experience of being an R.A. he says he feels burned out from the experience and plans to get an apartment next year. After that, Nick plans to graduate and is optimistic he will find a job in his major: Accounting. At least as an accountant, no one should be throwing oranges at him.