RA training, experience to change with move to Saadiyat

The 2013-2014 academic year marks the first time NYU Abu Dhabi is host to a complete four years of undergraduate students. With this increase in ...

Feb 15, 2014

The 2013-2014 academic year marks the first time NYU Abu Dhabi is host to a complete four years of undergraduate students. With this increase in growth, many departments took on greater responsibility, including the Office of Residential Education. To manage and maintain the 12 students’ floors of Sama Tower, the Office of Residential Education hired 24 RAs, more than in any previous year.
RAs are an integral part of the conventional U.S. college system, serving as a bridge between the administration and the students. RAs not only maintain peace and order in student residences but at times also fulfill roles of teacher assistants, counselors and peer advisors. At NYUAD, RAs are chosen based on their academic standing and their role in the community. According to current RAs, the process is competitive, involving many stages such as interviews with the Office of Residential Education and current RAs as well as creative tasks and activities.
Senior Layla al Neyadi said that her experience as an RA has been a fulfilling one. She particularly enjoyed getting to know her residents, most of whom were sophomores, and establishing a stronger bond with the administration. Al Neyadi said she looks forward to becoming a psychological therapist and said that this is a fantastic opportunity for her to practice skills that she will need later on in her professional life.
Al Neyadi said it is a common perception among students that being an RA in senior year is perhaps not the best idea; however, she feels she made the right decision, as the demands of being an RA have helped her prioritize effectively.
Besides, she said she enjoys working with the RA team.
"There are 24 of us, 12 on the east side and 12 on the west, and we work really well together," she said.
Motivations to become an RA vary from student to student. Sophomore Mika Koulibay said she wanted to help new students with their problems and adjusting to Sama.
"I always wanted to have this experience — being in charge of people. I was very excited about it," said Koulibay.
Both Al Neyadi and Koulibay feel they are better integrated in the community because of their positions. Al Neyadi said, since becoming an RA, she feels more connected to the students and the administration.
Some students see this opportunity as a challenge. Freshman Alexandru Roşca is interested in the position; however, rather than applying for a freshman floor, he hopes to be an RA for seniors. He said that he is not worried about working with older students.
"I feel like going with the freshmen is expected, and [it would be] logical for me to go with the freshmen, but I feel so much more connected to the senior class right now. I make stronger connections with people who are more mature; I would love to have a senior floor," he said.
"We have to build some trust, and I guess if I hopefully become an RA, I would try as best as I can to get to know everyone on my floor. And we will have to learn from each other," Rosca said.
RAs work for 20 hours a week, spending most of this time organizing and hosting hall events such as movie-nights and tea parties for their floors or helping at Office of Residential Education for three hours per week.
For potential RAs, Al Neyadi advised, "Make sure that you know what you want and can keep it organized, and [then] you can continue in reaching that goal. Focus on getting rid of any negative issues that can get in the way."
Koulibay said that RAs must be ready to innovate, both aesthetically and in navigating conflict.
"I would say they should be as creative as possible.  Think about [an issue] creatively. If you're fine with sacrifices, you are good. It forces you to grow up. So you have to make a sacrifice to grow up."
As NYUAD anticipates its much-awaited move to Saadiyat Island, residential life will change. Mobility within Sama allows the current RAs to be in direct and continuous contact with each other, but this shall change once in Saadiyat. The Office of Residential Education plans on hiring approximately 6 additional RAs, according to the current group. However, there is little comprehensive information available for students on next year’s residential life program; the Office of Residential Education declined to comment for this article.
Khadeeja Farooqui is deputy features editor. Email her at
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