[COVID-19 Report] The challenges for new RAs of the COVID year

June 22, 2020 by Yoonsoo Lee


The benefits of physical conversation were dispensed with in favor of the safe long-distance back-and-forth of text messaging, as the RAs and I conversed with multiple cities and highways between us. COVID-19 has hit everyone, but within our student community, few others have been both in front of and behind the business end of the whole ordeal like the newly appointed Resident Assistants.

The wake of the pandemic, which caused severe limits for physical gatherings and a significant reduction of the RC student population, meant a change of policy. New RAs had to learn RA duties and manage responsibilities in a time when neither of them was quite certain. I had the pleasure of querying two of these new RAs.

Jiho and Sihyeon are two RAs who were newly appointed for the first semester of 2020.

Please briefly introduce yourself.

Jiho: Hi everyone, I am Jiho from Sustainable Development and Cooperation class of 19. I am an Appenzeller House RA. I am in charge of translating announcements in English, and I manage the Creative Platform for Appenzeller students.

Sihyeon: Hello everyone! My name is Sihyeon Park, a class of 19. I am currently majoring in Political Science and International Relations. I was in charge of institutionalizing the modified RC system, and the surveys for Appenzeller House. This was my first semester working as an RA.

How have things changed in the dorms? What difficulties arose from it?

Jiho: The biggest change in the dorms is that there are now very few students living there. Accordingly, we needed to change the way we promoted our RC programs. Previously RC students could get information about RC programs from posters as they walked around the dorm. Now we organize our RC program to be more accessible for RC students, because we heavily rely on online spaces for promoting each event. We are trying to deliver information on RC life more precisely and concisely.

With fewer students in the fold to guide and see/physically interact with, how has this affected your role and sense of fulfillment as an RA?

Sihyeon: Since the only communication methods available were online-based (via mobile/email/Kakao/YSCEC), it was hard to communicate with the students if they simply chose not to respond (luckily, my RCs were kind enough to respond with alacrity!). Yet, with limited channels of communication, sending out assignments, and even explaining the pass requirement was quite a challenge. I applied for an RA position to help the freshmen. Though deprived of physical contact, I was oriented to find more diverse ways to help out, such as making a video on course enrollment, conveying information through slides, or even having joint programs with the counseling center. Though the details of my role have changed, working as an RA and persistently striving to think of ways that work best for the RCs was very fulfilling. The greatest moment of fulfillment came from the encouraging messages my RC students sent!

With the obstacle in managing House programs, what kind of programs have the RAs done in response?

Jiho: Since this whole semester is run online, every program was held less-than-intact. Though we could not hold iconic events like the Black and White party or the International Potluck, we still held events through Zoom. I believe the most notable program this semester is a program called ‘Brainstorming.’ RCs can join in different categories of Brainstorming sessions, and they can collaborate to organize their own RC activities. I believe that despite the obstacles, the spirit of RC education has expanded more than before. I firmly believe that RC students can realize this spirit wherever they are as opposed to our previous belief that RC education can only be carried out in the dorms.

Do you feel as though the weight of your role has been diminished or increased?

Sihyeon: It depends. Though the physical burden has diminished (Like going to-and-fro from Sinchon to Songdo and reserving revenue), the burden of everything else skyrocketed. It was hard to know what the right thing to do was, especially with everything being so different and without clear direction for the course of action. Finding ways to encourage the RCs to participate yet not losing contact while applying the changed RC system for the first time, was both challenging and painstaking.  

Closing words to students and the school?

Jiho: I feel huge gratitude for all Appenzeller RC students, fellow RA members, and RM Professor Denton. It must not have been an easy task to carry out RC education in the new-normal era, but I believe that we all grew up through this experience. I wish to physically meet everyone next semester!

Sihyeon: This has been a tough semester for everyone. Though there were trials and errors, we managed to come this far. Based on this semester, I hope we could pursue a direction in which the RC system could fully realize its potential, with more certainty in its conduct. I also sincerely wish that next semester, we could enjoy the virtue of face-to-face contact within an offline semester!

In conclusion, appreciate your RAs, even if you don’t get to see them too often.

The UIC Scribe was founded in 2006 as the official student-run newsmagazine of Underwood International College. It celebrates diversity of thinking, excellence in writing, and the freedom of self-expression.