Even after four years living on campus at San Diego State University, 22-year-old Alyssa Root still isn't ready to completely pack her bags.The former resident assistant (RA) and recent grad is hanging around in her new role as a front desk assistant for the housing office (hooray for post-grad employment, she says).
But it's more than the job that's keeping her on campus. Residential living has wooed the Danville, CA native and she plans to make it her career. She survived the roommate blues her freshman year (let's just describe it as conflicting schedules) to find her niche on campus. With three years in RA roles behind her at the college many Rancho Bernardo-area high school graduates will soon call home, Root has plenty of stories and tips to share.
Patch caught up with Root recently to get her advice for incoming Aztecs, plus a recounting of what she called "one of the scariest" moments for her as an RA.
Patch: How did you feel moving into the dorms your freshman year? How did the reality compare with your expectations?
Root: "I was mostly just anxious and excited to come to school. I was excited to live outside of my home and not have a curfew and really just come up with my own schedule and not have anybody to really hold me accountable, really just myself.
"Once I got here, it was really scary and then reality set in. ...I got lost a lot on campus. It was just very overwhelming. It was really hard for the first month to get acclimated.
"Luckily, my mom made me do my own laundry at home in high school. A lot of people did not know how to do their own laundry."
Patch: What was it like working with freshmen as an RA?
Root: "It was really nice because I had a hard time getting used to everything and so I was really was able to sympathize with everything everyone was going through."
"I really encouraged everyone to get involved in clubs and organizations because in order to love something big, you have to love something small within it. Build relationships on the floor."
Patch: What are some dorm room must-haves?
- Shower shoes and comfortable walking shoes.
- Reading light: "Because you never know what your roommate situation is. ...When my roommate was sleeping, I would have the light on."
- Water bottles (There are a lot of places on campus to fill up.)
Patch: What should students leave at home?
Root: Your car.
"[It] forces you to use public transportation and get to know the city. I could appreciate my car more once I had it in my second year and third year. It's not really necessary to have it your freshman year."
Patch: What was your worst experience as an RA?
Root: "I'm very motherly and protective of my residents. ...I saw one of the residents that I had talked to and become friends with had alcohol poisoning and so seeing him on the floor throwing up, not being able to control himself and he was like calling me these names that he would never call me if he was in the right mindset. That was really scary for me.
"He was brought downtown because his behavior was just so unacceptable. That was one of the scary things because you don't know what's going to happen to them. It can go from OK to bad in a minute. That was one of the scariest."
Patch: What was your best experience as an RA?
Root: "I just loved the residents and just getting really close to them and being that mentor to them. A lot of them had different issues that they were going through.
"I still keep in contact with a lot of them. Shows how much you impact their life. The little things that you did for them that you never really noticed, it had a pretty big impact."
Patch: Any other advice?
Root: "It may not be the easiest at times, but just keeping an open mind and trying to connect with others in a more positive light. ...If they are going through something, they are not alone. [Others are] going through it, too. Just talking to people can help."