From Strangers to Family

Last year, I held a lot of apprehension about becoming an RA for the 2022-23 academic year. All summer long, anxiety ate at my stomach. Would I make a good RA? Would I get along well with the rest of my RA staff? Did the hiring team make a mistake? Was this really where I was supposed to be?

You get the picture – my fears knew no limits. But all of that faded away once I met my RA team and my residents.

Each year, RAs arrive on campus about two weeks before the rest of the student body starts to move in. For the first part of these two weeks, RAs go on a special retreat  to meditate about the upcoming school year and bond with their individual teams. This year’s retreat took us to a remote location in Eastern Oregon, and we did everything from whitewater rafting to listening to devotionals by the lake. 

On the drive to our campsite, I was nervous about what was to come. I was sitting next to these people that I had been thinking about for weeks, and I was finally in the position of getting to know them. The old fears crept back in as I glanced around the van. What if they didn’t like me? What if we had nothing in common? But I pushed those thoughts back as we made small talk and sang along to all sorts of music.

After several hours of driving, we arrived at our destination: a grouping of lodges and cabins set next to a beautiful lake on one of Eastern Oregon’s many mountains. The first thing we did was play outdoor volleyball, and then we went for a swim in the lake. That night we were on dinner duty, and we came together to make about 20 Costco lasagnas and some salad for dinner. Afterwards, we just sat and ate together as we began to fall into a sort of groove.

RA's celebrating welcome weekend

Little by little, I got to know everyone on my staff. As the days progressed, we got even closer as we went kayaking, explored Sisters, Oregon, and participated in devotionals and meditation meant to center us individually and collectively. One of my favorite memories from the trip is when we all chose to take our dinner of cheeseburgers out to the dock. We sat down with our feet dangling in the water, and we appreciated God’s beautiful creation as we ate.

By the time we left the camp to go back home, I felt as if I had found a whole new family that I could really depend on. Hunter, Peyton, Tatum, Fern, Sam, Caroline, Sandra, Shelby, Dahiana, Kevin, Henry, Josh, and Connor are truly some of the greatest people I have ever been blessed to meet.

Hunter Gonzales is probably the funniest person I know, but he also knows how to be serious when he needs to be. He gives the best hugs.

Peyton Wood is very practical and put-together, but he has a wild side and can be the life of the party when he wants to be. 

Tatum Pierson has such a comforting presence, and she can instantly make a person feel at home.

Fern Maldonado is an amazing listener, and she has listened to me rant more times than I can count. 

Sam Cimbora has a big heart, and cares deeply about everyone in his life. 

Caroline Millers is truly on fire for Jesus, and you can see that in everything she says and does.

Sandra Carson always knows the right thing to say and when to say it. 

Shelby Franks can always bring a smile to your face, no matter the time or circumstance. 

Dahiana Padilla is one of the most dependable people I know, and she never fails to show up when you need her most.

Kevin Garcia-Castro is incredibly strong, and he is always there for people to lean on, including myself.

Henry Samuelson is extremely compassionate, and he makes everyone around him feel loved.

Josh Williams is incredibly wise, and he has already helped me see the truth in ways I can’t describe.

Connor Knapp is a great leader and area coordinator, and he leads our sometimes-unruly RA team with patience and kindness.

These short descriptions just scratch the surface. If you had told me last year when I first found out that I had received the RA position that I would feel this close to and at home with my staff, I wouldn’t have believed you. God really does put the people you need in your life when you need them. 

But it doesn’t stop there. I wasn’t just blessed with my RA team – I was also blessed with my residents. I have loved getting to know them over the past couple of weeks, and I can’t wait to see them grow over the course of the next year. They are all brilliant young women, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls.

I think most first-time RAs are under the misconception that being an RA is all about serving your residents and shaping their college experience. What they don’t realize (and what I didn’t realize until my best friend pointed it out to me) is that being an RA shapes your college experience too. Yes, I serve my residents every day, but they also serve me and teach me important life lessons. I am not the same person I was last year, or even last week. I grow as they grow.

I knew that God had a plan when he put me in this student leadership position, but I had no idea that it would be as transformative and life-changing as this. Becoming an RA is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I can’t thank God enough for all the wonderful people he has put in my life. Romans 8:28 has never rung more true: 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 

Share this post: