As temperatures dipped into the negatives last Wednesday and windows filled with frost, Miamians found themselves with an unexpected day off. While students across campus pondered what to do with their free time, Resident Assistant Steve Sitko knew exactly what he wanted to do.
Hoping to provide his residents with an interesting indoor activity as the air turned to ice outside, he pulled out his copy of Super Smash Bros. -- a competitive, multiplayer video game where various Nintendo characters battle one another. Game in hand, he invited the residents of his corridor in Hillcrest to join him for a day of laid-back fun.
"Having the snow day early on was kind of a fortunate thing," Steve said. "Super Smash Bros. had just come out, and I brought it out during our first week kickoff event. It was a hit there, and it was a hit the second time too."
Steve said that he and his residents played for hours -- talking, relaxing and enjoying the day off. The event served as a way for him to get back into contact with his residents after the long winter break.
Coming back from J-term can be mildly disorienting. The break is more than a month long, providing ample time for younger Miamians to forget how campus life works. For RAs like Steve, this means it can be difficult to reestablish the relationships they built with their residents before the break.
"There's absolutely a difference [between first and second semester,]" Steve said. "And I think it's more important for me to be available as an RA now that we're back."
Although Steve has spent his entire career, almost three years, as an RA in a sophomore dorm, he believes the difference between first and second semester might be even more of an issue in first-year dorms.
"In a freshman dorm, everyone gets to college and it's a brand new experience," Steve said. "The residents are experiencing all new things. They're homesick and sometimes solitary. By second semester, they're opening up to their corridor and connecting with their RA more."
Tiffany Turkovich, an RA in Stonebridge Hall, echoed Steve's thoughts on second semester, but added that with increased familiarity sometimes comes a lack of participation.
"Second semester, you definitely learn more about your residents," Tiffany said. "That means you can approach them a little better. But at the same time, when it comes to holding programs and trying to engage them, you know that sometimes they decide not to show up to things, which can be a little disheartening."
As RAs for sophomore dorms, both Steve and Tiffany have experienced the frustrations of lackluster participation.
"The biggest challenge for me as an RA is attendance," Tiffany said. "Like people not wanting to show up to their one-on-ones and attendance to programs, especially second years since they've already solidified their campus involvements."
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Although she's aware of the reasons behind the dip in attendance, Tiffany said that doesn't always make her feel better.
"It's difficult to not blame yourself when some things like that don't go well or if you don't meet your goals to get people to show up to your events, even though you've spent some money on it," she said.
But Tiffany said she doesn't let low involvement get her down.
"I love being an RA," she said. "[My residents] are awesome, and at the end of the day, it's worth it."
Steve echoed Tiffany's sentiments toward her residents.
"It's a very rewarding experience," he said. "And despite how intimidating it can be, second semester especially, I like it a lot."