How to really be a residential assistant

University of Derby's Nunnery Court accommodation residential assistants talk about the joys and the stresses of working in the place they live

The entrance to the accommodation - Photo taken by Aidan Merritt.

The role of a Residential Assistant in any university accomodation across the UK is not a job for the faint-hearted, often involving long hours, repetitive conversations and unusual tasks.

As the academic year comes to a close once more, StoryHub Derby have an exclusive interview with two RA’s at Derby University’s Nunnery Court accommodation who reveal the good, the bad and the unusual life of working as a student within the community you live.

Inside the block of one and two in nunnery court where the RA’s live – Photo taken by Aidan Merritt.

RA’s at Nunnery Court often find themselves with various roles. One of the main roles is to offer support to students when staff leave for the day.

This role is one of the most important in the checklist for an assistant as students often need to engage with some level of authority and may not always feel comfortable confessing issues towards more mature staff.

As tedious as the task may seem, kitchen checks and handing out post is an essential role of an RA.

This continuation throughout the semesters to ensure a happy and healthy environment for students to live.

Alex, an RA at Nunnery Court states the positive that, “you get to meet quite a lot of people, there are some people who don’t really come out that much, that you get to meet and get to know, and just have some good banter with everyone.”

The community area of Nunnery Court. Photo taken by Aidan Merritt.

“There’s a community here.” Lauren, another RA at Nunnery Court explains. The community is always adapting the people who reside in these spaces.

“If you take my first year and this first year, it’s a completely different feel, especially considering it was during COVID.” Anyone wanting to become an RA needs to be adaptable, but an enjoyable experience seems very probable.

However, there are some negatives to RA work that students looking to step into the role should bear in mind. As an RA you would be obliged not to share stories of other students, something that students in general, seem to be very persistent over.

It is important to remember that you live where you work when you have the role of an RA.

“Sometimes this can be a positive, other times it can be quite negative, especially when you’re not on shift and people are still coming up to you with their problems,” Alex went on to explain.

Lauren described this feeling as, “you are always kind of on duty”. Something that can effect the everyday life of a student.

The area where the office and common room link. Photo taken by Aidan Merritt.

Alex and Lauren expressed their happiness with the location of their job and its proximity to the main office, giving the role a, “roll out of bed and go” attitude in certain circumstances.

Which is understandable when you work where you’re also trying to attain a degree.

Overall, the role of an RA is vital in maintaining a community and encouraging togetherness within the accommodation.

This role as important as it can be too many does come with some personal struggles however, as you can often find yourself working free overtime as students may approach you with concerns during your free time.

The role encompasses everything the university want to thrive in their accommodations, and with rent discounted for the year and the student in the role being paid, it becomes a difficult offer for students looking for work to turn down.