Making a Splash In Residence Life

Posted by Nicole

(Disclaimer: All ocean-related puns are entirely intentional.)

I'm going to start out by saying I love the ocean. It's erratic and chaotic, not to mention absolutely and fascinatingly beautiful. I'm not crazy about boats or pirates or anything of the sort; however, start talking to me about the mating habits of prowling female anglerfish, the life-giving currents that circle the globe, the struggling fisheries, the ancient bacteria trapped in sea ice, or pretty much anything along those lines, and I'm hooked (pun intended).

There always bizarre events and creatures to be found there. Not only that, but the ocean connects everyone on some level; people can travel coast to coast, ship goods across the waves, or thank the turn in the ocean currents for the warm weather in a certain location. The ocean also teaches us humility—there's a whole world down there of which we have barely scratched the watery surface, and the colossal scale of the ocean can remind us how fragile and small we really are. On the flip side of that, we also gather new ideas for the future from this knowledge, and learn how we can use things as small as zooplankton to things as large as international tides for energy.  

The ocean is also ridiculously terrifying. It's brutally competitive, to the point where I know I would never ever survive as a fish—there's too many fanged alien-looking mouths out there. Consequently, the ocean is a demanding place for its inhabitants and humans alike in order to survive. Those waters are prone to trying our patience—any fisherman could attest to that fact, and researchers even more so as we struggle just to understand why things are the way they are. It's a complex place, with only more challenges appearing the more we explore it.

Have I also mentioned I work as an Resident Assistant up in the dorms? You wouldn't think the two topics are connected—the only abundance of water the land-locked UAF campus has is generally in a white frozen form. Two years ago, however, I convinced my employers as to why the same person who appreciates the watery world of the ocean should be placed into a position of authority of a campus dormitory. There are great similarities between a dorm hall and the ocean, if you're willing to dive in and take a look.

Bizarre events and creatures. There's an incredible amount of diversity in the campus dorms. Residents come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, colorful and plain, followers and leaders, quiet and assertive, artistic and mechanic, and so on and so forth. No two residents are ever the same, and a researcher would be hard-pressed to catalogue them all; the list just keeps growing.

The axolotl: the official Pokemon of the ocean.

Everyone's connected. Residents that used to live on opposite sides of the globe now live three feet apart. Not only does everyone live physically in close quarters, but as the semester continues, I've found that residents start to live mentally close as well. The mentality of being part of a community starts to sink in, and the most unlikely combinations of people become the closest friends. These people dine together, brush their teeth together, study together, cry together, laugh together, and live together in every sense of the word.

If you think you know everything, think again. My time as an RA continually reminds me about how much I have to learn. Surrounded by these incredibly different people, I'm constantly learning new things about myself and about my residents, and how small my growing world is in comparison to reality. If you ever need a lesson in humility, the dorms are a good place to start.

The deep ocean: confirming your fear of the dark, but fascinating at the same time.

Competitive. Combine a wide variety of people, put them in close quarters, mix their knowledge, and what do you get? The natural side effect of competition. Usually it's in healthy amounts, as residents use the strengths of their fellow residents as motivation to improve themselves. However, there are always times when the urge to better oneself blends into the urge to be better than someone else—a very important distinction to make. Living in a dorm can be exceptionally demanding on a personal and academic level, which blends into my next point.

I think he missed.

Prone to trying our patience. Sometimes two people just don't click well together; friends drift apart; the hours of sleep dwindle; the stress of classes accumulates; roommates bicker and Murphy's law kicks in hard. These challenges happen to even the best of people, and are never missing from a dorm community. Part of the experience living in a dorm involves learning how to handle these situations correctly, and to learn from our mistakes along the way.

Incredibly complex. As a Natural Resource Management major, I'm well acquainted with how complex an ecosystem can get, with all the interactive pieces constantly working. I'm still baffled by how complex the “ecosystem” of a dorm is. Each resident has their own story and motivations; they all act uniquely in their environment and with the other students around them. Each action ripples through the community in sometimes unpredictable ways, which can either strengthen or shatter relationships. While it usually works out in the end, watching this ecosystem in action never ceases to startle and fascinate me.

The opportunities for the future are endless. Residence Life dorms are havens for student possibilities. Between the fun-yet-borderline-educational programs hosted by RA's, the events hosted by Res Life for Nanook Traditions, and the extensive list of faculty and staff poised to help at any time (including Peer Mentors and RA's), these dorms have plenty of tools for residents to utilize. Here, decisions are made, degrees are earned, friendships are forged, and memories are made. No matter how stressful dorm life can get, there's always a better step forward.

 So like I said: I love the ocean. I also happen to enjoy dorm life; both are terrifying and rewarding. Both have taught me the same lesson time and time again: when in doubt, just keep swimming.  

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