Resident advisers readjust to empty residence halls


The Daily Illini File Photo

The interior of UIUC’s newewst dorm, Wassaja Hall, on August 17, 2016.

By Nandika Chatterjee, Staff Writer

With COVID-19 impacting the daily habits of people around the world, the lives of college students has dramatically shifted. Many students have gone home to complete the semester online. While the dorm rooms emptied quickly, the students in charge of University housing have had their lives changed as well.

As resident halls became quiet, resident advisers, multicultural advocates and program advisers were left with less to do. Their time with their residents was cut short and goodbyes were exchanged prematurely and were given the option, by housing, to retire their position should they want to go home. Otherwise, they could choose to continue in preselected residence halls that would continue to house students who were on campus. 

Once an RA at Allen Hall, Alyssa McDonald is currently a senior who chose to continue as an RA.

“Communities are definitely not very vibrant and lively, with most of the residents gone. It makes me miss all of the memorable business and chaos that comes with all of the events that our LLC offers and hosts,” she said. “I miss my residents and the rest of our staff. I feel like something is missing in my life and experience now.” 

Anna Blackledge, a senior and a program adviser, agreed that transition has had quite an impact in general and for her personally.

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She said, “The changes were very stressful. Throughout spring break, so many things changed that I was very worried that all the buildings would shut down and I would have to scramble for a place to live.” 

Blackledge is now moving from Allen Hall into PAR, which she said was stressful. She had to pack and move all her belongings during the school day, planning around her classes, also worried if this was another temporary placement before being asked to move again.

Her job was to help plan programs for residents at Allen Hall, which she cannot translate to the new situation as all the planned programs have been canceled, leaving her without work to do. 

With all the progress that COVID-19 has made, time is certainly uncertain. When asked about how adjusting to all that has ensued due to the virus, Blackledge said being an extrovert living in Allen gave her plenty of opportunities to talk to others and have fun.

She continued, “Now that everything is canceled, I’ve had to adjust the way I socialize with people, and I have to do some work to socialize, which is a big difference from getting to socialize with people every time I left my room.” 

McDonald agreed, saying, “It’s nice to have some time alone to reflect and self-care, but it is difficult not to have many in-person interactions, especially when my energy and personality feeds off social interaction.” 

Sarah Craig, a current sophomore, was also an RA. She decided to head back home after spring break. The whole experience meant that she had to resign from her job for the semester. 

She said, “Resigning from my position for the semester was emotional. On the job, you develop strong relationships with your co-workers and your residents, and none of us were able to say goodbye to each other, knowing what we know now.” 

When asked why she decided to head back, she said that it was a difficult decision. Several RAs were returning, so she knew everyone would be in good hands. She decided it was a better choice for her to support her sister at the home of whom she had not seen much after coming to college.

Craig said that during the school year, she was a heavily involved student without much free time. Now that she can take a step back from that, she has more time to work on her research.

Blackledge said, “Right now I’m very excited that PAR, I think, has in-room AC, and that the credit store will be directly downstairs. I’ve also been having picnics alone when the weather is nice, so I will spend days waiting for it to be warm outside.” 

McDonald said, “I always make sure that I acknowledge my health and the fact of being grateful for my health during this vulnerable time. I’m thankful for having the resources and family support that I have along with the staff and just acknowledging the fact that we may be in ‘isolation,’ but no one is going through this truly alone.” 

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