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Inside the 2019-2020 RA Bonding Retreat: On April 14, returning RAs and new faces to staffs gathered to spend quality time together before their official position of RA starts next fall

      On April 14, I spent the day getting to know and bonding with the new 2019-2020 Resident Life Staff. Although the bonding, located at a Resident Director’s friend’s house in Devon, Pennsylvania, started at 3 p.m., myself along with junior and fellow Eagle Hall RA Bryan Eltman shopped with our RD, Alexis “Lexi” Dunbar to prepare for the day.

Around noon, Eltman and I were given instructions to acquire snacks, drinks, and utensils for about 50 people. Dunbar gave us a half hour and a budget to complete our task. I started calling it a mission to make it more fun for Eltman and I. We also made it a second mission to break Dunbar’s idea of how long it would take us to shop for 50 people. We took 17 minutes. I cannot lie; I was beyond proud.

After collecting what Dunbar needed from us, Eltman and I assisted her in grabbing more ingredients for our dinner. At this retreat, Dunbar was challenging us to cook for ourselves.

Once at the location of our retreat, Eltman began to dig me out of the backseat (literally, I promise). After the groceries that were piled on me were gone, I was able to help put away all the snacks, drinks, utensils, as well as Dunbar’s vision for our dinner– tacos.

When the staff began arriving around 3 p.m., Eltman and I assisted in handing out name tags I had decorated the night prior. I saw so many new faces, some of people I have yet to meet.

After some initial mingling, buildings were grouped together to start a rotation of two events– three buildings went into the house and discussed leadership skills and styles and the remaining three remained outside and were instructed to build a golf course. Eagle Hall staff was in the later group to start. My staff had a hula hoop, corded telephone, a giant wooden giraffe, among other things that made little to no sense.

      Many staffs took this obstacle course building as a fun challenge– one we could laugh at. After making the course, however, there was another catch: each RA had to make the golf ball into its hole in three or less swings. If one person on the staff went over three swings, the whole staff had to start over. This became a challenge, but even after multiple times of starting over, the Eagle staff still made light of the situation and cheered each other on. We laughed at each other’s putting skills, or lack thereof, and our ability to put together a course that utilized the slant of the driveway. Eventually, we were all able to make the hole in three swings or less.

Our next bonding session was a tad more laid back. We were first asked to take a survey about how we approach group situations as well as how we work as a leader. We were then categorized into four different groups depending on our leadership style. These groups were Spirited, Systematic, Direct, and Considerate.

My particular staff was spread across each of these four styles of leadership and communication. Personally, I scored to highest in Considerate but was very close to Systematic and Direct.

We were then placed in these four different groups and reflected on how these styles come up in our job as an RA for returners and how a new RA could see them coming up for them once their job starts in the fall. My considerate group talked about how we thrive on human connection and want everyone to be heard as much as possible. After talking with our individual style groups, we came together with our hall staff and talked about how our styles together can help our building in the fall.

      After this activity, we as a six building staff was instructed on assignments for our dinner making. My group, the RAs with red name tags, were in charge of cooking dinner. Because Eltman and I shopped and knew what we were making exactly, we took charge in helping assigning red group to different jobs. After this, Eltman and I oversaw a lot of the cooking process. The red team slayed everything and was effortlessly able to make a great meal for the entire staff.

By the end of the day, I was reflecting with Eltman and my RD on the retreat. I think that this retreat felt different for me. On top of us being in a different location and there being new faces in the staff, I felt as if I had more to offer to this bonding experience as it was my second year being an RA.

I think that the most important thing we could have done that day was make food for one another. In a span of an hour and a half, we were able to feed our entire staff. I think there was something special about literally nourishing the Residence Life staff, even if it was just through some tacos.

The next time the whole staff of 2019-2020 will be together is during our fall training. There, we will take the relationships we formed on April 14 and translate them into the job of being an RA. This relationship building helps us to form RA relationships in which a building staff can lead on one another.

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