The Life of a RA

Photo credit CapU Residence Advisors

CapU Residence Advisors were asked to document their own lives. Then the pandemic happened.

Seymour window

CapU Residence is a unique place to live. On each floor, you’ll find students of different backgrounds, ages and programs all with varied past experiences and present needs.

Bus line Catching the bus to school. Photo by Steph Cardona.
Students holding cue cards on their foreheads
Study time. Photo by Kaila Kondo.
Sound editing
Sound editing project due next day. Photo by Steph Cardona.

Residence Advisors (RAs) take this diversity and create a community. It’s not easy. On top of our own schoolwork and personal lives, we support our residents by creating events and maintaining a positive, safe presence.

Emma self portrait Getting ready for the day. Photo by Emma Harris.
Chair in room My chair working hard right now. Photo by Emma Harris.

Living where you work creates a unique job situation to say the least. You can have important meetings in sweatpants and do your laundry while discussing global politics.

Student life hub Lots of love. Photo by Kaila Kondo.

Your common room is a movie marathon zone one day, and the place where you help a student with their first university paper or break up on another.

Trees On a path to Ron Andrews Recreation Centre. Photo by Lyric Wong.
Emma sun Hanging out my classroom window, trying to catch some rays. Photo by Emma Harris.
Evo Arriving to start my practicum. Photo by Keaton Lawlor.

You’re constantly scanning your email and checking in with the housing team. At night, you’re doing on-call rounds or having three-hour long conversations in the dining hall about everything and anything.

Girls night Girls night. Photo by Kaila Kondo.
Starbucks Happy hour at Starbucks. Photo by Tyler Cristiano.

You have one on one check-ins with students; sometimes there are tears, and other times, laughter.

Peter Security guard Peter. Photo by Steph Cardona.

No matter what, you always make time to say hello to Peter, the world’s friendliest head of security, who gives the best life advice.

RA meeting RA meeting. It is a RAd time. Photo by Kaila Kondo.
Breakfast Breakfast during class. Photo by Tyler Cristiano.

In February 2020, RAs were given cameras and asked to document a 24-hour period of their lives.

The project showcases the random and beautiful tangle that it is to be an RA.

Rounds Adding a little flare to our on-call shift. Photo by Keaton Lawlor.
Promposal He said YES. Photo by Kaila Kondo.

From classes to coffee breaks to our weekly team meetings, there is always something happening.

Then came the pandemic.

Heart-shaped card
Whitney slides a card under my door. Photo by Steph Cardona.

Of course, people always leave at the end of each semester. It’s bittersweet, but after working at residence for three years, you get used to saying goodbye.

Sunlight Sunlight. Photo by Steph Cardona.
Students outside Students sitting outside not practicing social distancing. Photo by Steph Cardona.
Zoom class Morning Zoom class. Photo by Steph Cardona.

I’ll never forget the end of my first year at CapU residence; it had just opened and we RAs had built the community from the ground up.

Dini Senior residence advisor Dini going out for her daily five minutes of sun, then back to quarantine. Photo by Steph Cardona.

Saying goodbye was emotional. Seeing people who had been homesick, struggled with classes or battled mental health hardships — to see them leave with a new sense of confidence, skills and happiness was indescribable.

Single-use garbage on a table
Brunch trash after switching to disposables only. Photo by Steph Cardona.
It took a pandemic for my girlfriend to finally learn how to cook: me walking her through my spaghetti bolognese recipe. Photo by Steph Cardona.

COVID-19 robbed us of our proper goodbyes; instead, leaving residence was cautious and emotional in a different way. No hugs. No ability to fully express our feelings; just standing six feet apart and waving.

Glove RA Whitney doing rounds. Photo by Steph Cardona.
Wash hands My daily reminder to wash my hands. Photo by Steph Cardona.

It was weird to say “Goodbye” and “I know we’ll see each other again” and “Have a safe flight” while making sure we didn’t get too close to each other.

We didn’t even get to say goodbye to everyone — the departures were so sudden and unannounced. We thought we’d have at least two more months together. We had made plans and movie marathon lists. We had purchased concert tickets and had made summer travelling plans.

Suddenly that was all gone.

Moving out Gwen, one of the students on my floor, moving out. Photo by Steph Cardona.

In the grand scheme of things, saying goodbye early is the least of problems during the pandemic but I think it’s important to honour our emotions and recognize the lack of closure. It’s okay to be sad that our year got cut short.

Computer screen with four people in a meeting
RA meeting via Microsoft Teams. Photo by Steph Cardona.

Knowing that you were a part of a student’s growth and journey, even for just a moment, is one of the best parts of the job. It makes me sad that the RAs this year did not get to experience their endings in the same way.

When I found out I had been hired to be Capilano University’s first ever Senior Residence Advisor (SRA) I was excited and nervous. It would be my job to support the RAs, to help them maintain a healthy balance in their lives and more. Would I be a good leader? What if I couldn’t do it?

Returning keys A student returning his key before moving out. Photo by Steph Cardona.

It was a rollercoaster to say the least but I’m happy that I beat my nerves and took the opportunity because I was able to be a part of something truly special. Now at the end of my three-year journey at residence, I am so proud of the foundation we built: every event we put on, every initiative we organized and every student we helped.

Empty dining hall
Dining hall emptier than usual. Photo by Steph Cardona.

RAs are student leaders through and through. Their peers rely on them for guidance and support, and this didn’t change with COVID-19. RAs had to calm fears and stay strong for students when they themselves were worried.

I am so proud of how they handled their responsibilities and the dedication they showed to the community. I’m blessed to have worked with such amazing people. So, thank you to the RAs. I appreciate each you and the hard work you put into residence through the good, the bad and the stressful times.

Dini Stamatopulos was the inaugural Senior Residence Advisor at CapU Residence. She graudated from the School of Communication in June 2020. Photos created by Chantelle Cardin, Steph Cardona, Tyler Cristiano, Emma Harris, Kaila Kondo, Keaton Lawlor and Lyric Wong.