From Chicago to Carolina

I'm a Chicagoan and lifetime midwesterner flying south to North Carolina for grad school. These are my adventures in southern living, working with a few hundred first-year college students, and hitting the books for a degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs.

This was the former home to my Photo 365 Project from 2011, so check it out in the link above to see it!

My RAs were so eager to get room checks done that our building was completely closed by 10:30 am! Everything went smoothly and only found a few bizarre things (pick-up truck tire? what?). It’s so quiet now!

To everyone on duty or staying in the halls this Thanksgiving, I hope that you have an uneventful and wonderful break! And to everyone, happy Thanksgiving! Remember all that you have to be thankful for and enjoy some turkey too! :) 

It’s that wonderful time of year full of application reviewing and lots of interviewing. I am excited to start picking a staff for the fall, but it’s strange to think I’m already a quarter of the way done with my master’s degree. For my graduating RAs, they’re starting to realize they’re very close to the real world and getting that initial panic I had this time last year. It’s interesting to be on this side of the freak outs.

Classes: Three. More. Assignments. And one final exam, but we’ll ignore that for now.

Work: RA Selection. Yep. Oh, and I launched a Living Learning Village assessment last week that I am nerding out over. I’m getting some amazing data. Who knew that students were actually interested in a Critical and Creative Thinking village?

Professional Development: Still working on my summer program application. I got an A- on my professional development plan in my foundations class!

Food Adventures: I have 3 potlucks in the next week. I baked an orange nutella coffee cake for tomorrow, and am planning on a pumpkin cake and a chocolate something for the others.

Worried About: Oh, where to even begin. It’s been one of those weeks.

Excited About: Thanksgiving! Even if I’m not going home. And only 30 days until I’m back in the Windy City.

But really…it feels like yesterday when I was just getting to North Carolina and starting training. Now I have almost a semester under my belt! Which is one quarter of my time here. That thought is both scary and amazing. In just over a month I’ll be heading back to Chicago for 2 whole weeks. I have my fingers crossed for some snow and Portillo’s. (And deep dish pizza, and Metropolis, and Argo…)

Classes: Home stretch! My group for my Student Development Theory final project is awesome. We spent the whole day today shooting a music video as a part of our presentation. It’s going to be the most amazing and heart wrenching thing ever. I’ll post it once it is edited!

Work: Our mid-year banquet is on Friday! I need to come up with a short speech about my staff…I think it’s only fitting that I work in a joke about brownies. Also, RA Selection starts in two weeks. On top of RA evaluations. The paperwork is about to get crazy.

Professional Development: Working on an application for a summer program. I don’t want to say too much until I find out if I get in or not, but I am excited!

Food Adventures: This week was a week to experiment in baking. I did some homemade funfetti cupcakes, mini german pancakes, and multiple varieties of mug cakes. I am definitely making pumpkin chocolate chip cookies again soon too…they were addictive.

Worried About: Not too much this week! Yay!

Excited About: Banquet on Friday, trip to the Renaissance Festival with students on Saturday, and RA in-service and Hall Council pancake dinner on Sunday! It’s going to be a busy, busy weekend!

So far, Halloween hasn’t wrecked that much havoc in my hall. Granted, there is a bar crawl on Wednesday, so that could be an issue, but I am hopeful that I will get through the holiday without any IRs!

Classes: Currently working on a first person account project for a history component of my Foundations class. I am writing from the perspective of a young physiology professor at women’s college in the 1920s/30s. And by some miracle, that’s the only thing I have due this week!

Work: It’s program approval and monthly report week! I am excited to see some of the proposals that my RAs have submitted…there’s always one or two that surprise me with a creative (or crazy) idea. I am also attending the large departmental meeting on Thursday. It’s the first one I’ll be going to since the beginning of the year (we rotate which RDs from our area attend every month), but I’m kind of interested in seeing what is going to be presented.

Professional Development: I’m trying to come up some unique trust and team building activities for my RAs. I want something that they might not outwardly realize is building trust, but also something that can be a strong shared experience. Suggestions?

Food Adventures: I spent a lot of time cooking this weekend so I would have some meals for the week. Now I have some veggie fried rice, garlic citrus veggie pasta, and vegetarian chick’n nugget dinners ready to go. Also had my first Cheerwine float…SO GOOD. I could probably have one every day if it wasn’t for the lactose intolerance thing.

Worried About: Re-doing my resume! Should I be doing a CV? What all should I be including? What do I cut? How long can it be? (Mine’s currently at 2 pages.) AHH.

Excited About: Homecoming week! And this much cooler weather we’re supposed to have this week. Also, veryyyy excited about football today. So far, all of my teams (Bears, Colts, and Steelers) have won. If Peyton Manning can also get a win, it will absolutely be a perfect football Sunday.

I am going to make a much bigger effort to update this! To help myself out, I’ve come up with some categories. Hopefully this will make it seem like a less daunting task.

Classes: I’ve been very happy with some of the grades I’ve been getting back lately…especially that A on my Student Development Theory! I’ve got a service reflection and some interviews due this week which won’t be bad, but that first person account due on the 31st is going to be a doozy.

Work: Compared to the beginning of October, it’s been pretty quiet around the hall. I’ve gotten into a routine that is only messed up when I have an exorbitant amount of conduct.

Professional Development: I attended the NCHO RA Drive-In yesterday along with a great group of RAs. I loved hearing what other schools are doing, and that I’m not alone in some of my struggles with staff supervision and hall council advising. I also got to present on late night programming in the hall, and it was so much fun! I think the RAs got some great ideas and brainstorming in. The best part was reconnecting to my love of programming and getting to share that. To top it off, our delegation got an award for presenting the most sessions at the conference!

Food Adventures: I missed out on the state fair and all the fried food. Bummer. But I am getting very good at taking the random things in my apartment and making meals out of them. It makes me feel like I’m on Chopped. My latest creations were veggie calzones and chicken mushroom broccoli casserole. This week I’m going to have to get creative!

Worried About: Getting my summer plans together are starting to edge into my stressors. I need to nail down plans for an internship, hopefully working for Housing, and taking a summer class. 

Excited About: Going to a friend’s fall/Halloween party this week! And really any opportunity to get out of my hall and off campus.

It’s been a while since my last post, but I can officially say that I’ve survived what is supposed to be the worst few weeks of working in housing!

RA training finished up much faster than I thought it would. I guess the long days of sessions and long nights of building prep contributed to that. Of course, while we were in the thick of it, it seemed like things would never get done or slow down. There were definitely a few times when it was overwhelming.

Move-in went very smoothly. I only had a few situations to deal with, and most of them involved keys. (Can we take a second and talk about how much of this job involves keys? Because it’s a lot.) Now there’s over 400 students living in my building. I forgot how noisy a residence hall could be. But I love having students stop by my office to ask questions or recognize me at campus events. I easily had a dozen students come up to me at Silent Disco last night and say “Hey, you’re my RD!”

Thursday I had my first graduate class: Assessment and Evaluation. I won’t lie, when I first found out that I would be taking a class completely about assessment, I was less than excited. But the professor is so enthusiastic, and I think it will be a very practical class. Our semester long project involves coming up with an assessment plan that is designed for use in a University department. I am hoping that I can create something that I can use in my assistantship. 

Up this week: a full week of classes, my first staff meeting and one on ones, a hall council info session, and lots of paperwork. But the plan is to head to the beach next weekend, so you better believe that is helping me get through the next 6 days.

Maybe I’ve just spent too much time in the last three days watching the Olympics, but let’s see if this analogy works out.

We’ve prepped and trained for this. Put hours and hours into strategies and plans. And it all comes down to the next two weeks.

It’s not quite as dramatic as the women’s gymnastics finals, but then again, not much is.

But in all reality, I am very excited to finally have the RAs in the building and to start working with my staff. The whole point of student affairs is interacting with students, so it will be nice to finally have some to work with. Bouncing ideas off of a computer screen just isn’t the same.

All of the crazy amounts of prep work I’ve done the last three weeks definitely paid off. I was able to spend this weekend just relaxing and giving myself a break, which might be the last time I get to until after classes start. But then again, thanks to papers and reading, the next break I may get is Christmas.

I’ve also got to do some exploring this week. A few friends and I checked out a free concert in downtown Raleigh Thursday night, and it was the perfect escape for that day. It was hot as heck, but the band was amazing and there were a few dancers in the crowd that provided entertainment. Then this weekend we went to the North Carolina Museum of Natural History. Nothing like a beautiful Saturday to get in touch with my inner science nerd.

Now that it has taken me nearly an hour to update this, it’s time to give my focus completely back to the Olympics. There’s nothing I love more than a night of swimming, gymnastics, and any other sport I can cheer for Team USA. 

Friday marked the end of “official” RD training…and the beginning of a crazy week of staff paper work, tweaking training sessions, and getting the building ready. My RAs will be getting here in a week, and there’s so much to get ready for them. Luckily I’ve gotten a good head start on some planning.

My programming model is finally on some solid ground, and I am extremely proud of it. I am calling back on my Jesuit undergrad experience and creating a set of building goals that I hope will appeal to my building population of mostly first and second years. The theme for the semester (and maybe the year) is “Care for Self, Care for Community, Grow Yourself, Grow Your Community.” I am also hoping to really challenge the staff into creating unique programs that will have residents thinking and considering their choices and beliefs and growing with them.

On the flip side, my staff expectations are currently sitting on my work desktop barely started. They are proving harder than anything to write, and I can’t figure out why. It may be one of those things I just need to power through.

On a more personal side of things, I am continuously getting more comfortable in my surroundings. My apartment is starting to feel like home, and my (currently) strict “no working on RD stuff outside of my office” policy is helping me manage the stress. On Friday, my supervisor challenged me and the other 2 RDs in my area to not talk about anything work related during lunch. It was actually really hard to do, which just showed us how much we need to work on being people outside of our jobs. We’re trying to take this seriously and talk about things other than work, so even though we slip, I consider the effort a big win.

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned the food down here yet. It’s definitely a little different, but in a very good way. I’ve discovered that grits are delicious, and that barbeque down here does not mean that smoky sweet, thick red sauce that comes in a bottle. It’s more like great pulled pork with a tangy vinegar sauce. A little weird at first, but so good. I can’t wait to continue to try Southern fare, and I promise some pictures soon!

Sounds like another thunderstorm is rolling in, so it’s time to hunker down on my couch and enjoy a book or some TV before bed. We’ll call it the calm before the storm that is one week till RA training!

I’ve decided that after 6 straight days of information and working, I will not let myself do any work beyond checking my email and making a to do list for tomorrow. Work/life balance and self care, right?

This first week was definitely a little up and down. I love my job so far. It’s nice to be able to focus on something that I enjoy doing and that I feel like I can succeed at. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t just a little overwhelming at some points. There’s a lot of new information to take in, and sometimes keeping the differences between my new institution and my undergrad straight makes my head spin. But the fact that I am enjoying creating programming models, learning about conduct processes, and getting ready for my staff to get here is greatly outweighing any bad feelings that may creep in.

The hardest part the last few days have probably been the homesickness. It’s been hard getting used to a new area and new people. I’ve found myself missing being able to hop on a train and get to a new area to explore, being able run along the lake and stop to just watch the waves, and the thousands of people on the streets. Most of all, I’ve been missing the people I was closest to there. I know it will get better with time.

On the schedule for this week: more training! I’ve also got a list of things to get done before my RAs arrive, and a few things I want to do before classes get started. I can’t wait for students to get here, but I plan on savoring the last few weeks of quiet!

I am officially unwinding from my first day of Residence Director training! (read: sprawled on my couch after a long, hot shower munching on carrot sticks and ice cubes.)

It was a pretty typical first day, with lots of paper work and introductions, followed up by a game night with the RDs. (Who doesn’t bond over Spoons, Mafia, and some competition?) I am awful at learning names in a group setting, but I think I’m actually doing okay this time around…I’m going to say the HEA Facebook group helped out with that one.

I am loving the diversity of my coworkers - in all aspects. Our backgrounds, our personalities, and our goals are all different, but we’re sharing this great experience. We all know how much I love the idea of shared experiences creating relationships. And we all should know how happy I am to be around people again after a week of mostly being alone in my apartment. I’m looking forward to continuing to get to know the rest of my coworkers and cohort in the next few weeks!

Homesickness is very much a real thing, but it’s not too bad right now. I still find it really hard to fall asleep without the street noise, but the train that is literally right behind my building is kind of making up for no longer having the el around. The biggest problem I’m having is this craving for a Metropolis hazelnut latte and one of their giant cookies. And the lake. I miss running by the lake. (It’s too hot to run here…unless you like heat stroke.)

The rumbling thunder is my cue to head to bed. (Or stay up and watch the lightning and an episode of How I Met Your Mother.) Day 2 is packed full of conduct training, and I can’t wait!