Back to Episode # 13

Life After Now.


Liz Bolsoni  00:07
Hello and welcome to the Life After Now podcast. I'm your host Liz Bolsoni. I'm a communication studies major at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. This podcast is a place for young people like you to gather information about education, and think about what it means for your life after now. You'll be able to connect with inspirational guests who have firsthand experience and expertise surrounding education in Minnesota. So today, I'll be talking with Asha Mohamud, a former community advisor at the University of Minnesota. Asha, thanks so much for joining me today.


Asha Mohamud  00:43
Hi, Liz. Thank you for having me.


Liz Bolsoni  00:45
Of course, yeah, before we dive in, I'm fun little icebreaker. So if you could give any advice or words of affirmation to your high school self, what would you say?


Asha Mohamud  00:55
So, when I was in high school, and I was going and applying to colleges, I really didn't know what I wanted to do as a major or as a career path. So I would tell myself, "You don't have to have it all figured out. And it's okay, if you don't know what you want to major in." So I just had a lot of doubts about going to college, because I didn't have it, like my whole life planned out. And I felt like that was what I was supposed to have. So I just want to tell myself, "That it's okay. And remember who you are. Let the world see you as you are and the complex human being that you are. You're not just your career, and that's not what solely defines you as a person. So it's okay. And your main goal should be to experience life, and, you know, be happy." So, I think that I sometimes focus too hard on the, kind of, career, work, school. And so I want to tell myself, that it's okay to delve into my creative side and do the things that truly fill my cup, and, you know, pour into me, as I pour into it. So yeah, focus on your creative endeavors.


Liz Bolsoni  02:14
Sounds like, you know, focusing or prioritizing yourself is a big part of college because it's one of the biggest decisions that you, you make for yourself and put a lot of, you invest and put a lot of time into yourself. So you should really savor that. I love your advice. Let's talk about your experience as an RA or resident's advisor at the University of Minnesota. Could you define that term for our audience?


Asha Mohamud  02:41
So a resident's advisor or resident's assistant, an RA, is a live-in student who basically is responsible for taking care of the residence hall. We organize dorm events, activities, kind of enforced dorm rules, mediate conflicts, like roommate conflicts and things like that. After hours when there's something going on in the hall that needs to be addressed, they'd call the RA. And so we'd have this little flip phone that we'd answer to address any after hours concerns for residents and things like that.


Liz Bolsoni  03:17
How did you learn about being a community advisor and why did you apply?


Asha Mohamud  03:23
Yeah, so when I was in high school, I went to St. Louis Park Senior High School, and we had a panel of college students speak about their experiences in college. And one of the speakers was an RA. And they talked about their experiences being like, they called it being a "Dorm Mom." And so I remember being interested because she mentioned that she got a discount on her room and board when she became an RA. And so I really wanted to have the experience of being on campus, but I also -- just a little bit of background about me. I'm a Somali immigrant. So I'm a first generation immigrant. I was born in Africa. I was born in Uganda, and I came here when I was around two. So when my family thought about like, me going to college, and I have some older siblings who already went through the college process, but living on campus was something that was not like an option in my family. Like it wasn't something that it wasn't a norm. It wasn't something that was common. And so even in my culture, I'm Somali, so it's just very common for people to stay at home and be commuters. But I really wanted to experience campus life. So this this concept of like being an RA and living on campus, and getting that discounted room and board so that I could afford it, was really appealing to me. So I applied later, because I spent my freshman year as a commuter, so I took the bus every single day. I took the bus, city was every single day to school, and I took every single day home. And it was I think I like an hour commute. And so, I mean, I know that there's a lot of people who definitely can, can be commuter and the commuting life has its own benefits, but in my experience, and for me, like I really want it to be the first in my family to go live on campus. And being an RA was the way that I could do that. So I really wanted to experience campus life.


Liz Bolsoni  05:25
So when you applied, what did you expect of the position? You know, what did you expect your responsibilities to be? And were those the same? Did anything surprise you?


Asha Mohamud  05:35
Yeah, so the day-to-day expectations of being a CA. So basically, you work on a team of -- and I'm going to use the word CA and RA interchangeably. They're just kind of different ways to explain the same role. But when I was a CA, my day-to-day experience was I worked on a team of about 13 CAs, and we were on circulating duty shifts. And so when you're on duty, you kind of are on call. And you do need to do rounds, where you walk the building and make sure everything looks right. Sometimes you'd come across something like a broken elevator, or a, you know, broken exit sign or something like that. And so you would put in a fix-it, make, you know, make sure that maintenance gets to it, or, you know, you do wellness checks on residents, sometimes even respond to emergency situations, especially on like kind of weekends and like holiday nights. And so you're kind of in charge of setting the tone on the floor. And you're also that person who makes sure everyone's good.


Liz Bolsoni  06:46
So some of our listeners might hear what you're saying and think it sounds like a great position. But they're not quite sure if it's a fit for them. And you had mentioned earlier that the student panelist that visited your high school said, it's kind of like a "dorm mom" position. Some people might not identify with that kind of characteristic. And so what do you say for people who don't think they don't fit the RA position?


Asha Mohamud  07:17
Yeah, I would say, because I honestly did not think that I was going to be a good fit for the RA position myself. I remember thinking back then I was like, "Yeah, I'm definitely not that." I don't give that energy of like, being a big sibling, like kind of taking care of others. I didn't know if that was right for me, because like, I'm also one of the youngest in my family. I'm very much on the other side of that. So I'd say that there's no single type of person that's a good fit for the role. I recommend it highly to people who are interested in community building. And for me, like it was really, really, it was a really great experience.


Liz Bolsoni  07:56
So what are some of the benefits for people who, who do you want to pursue this? What do you get out of being an RA?


Asha Mohamud  08:03
A ton, so much. So, so much of the skills that you learn, while being an RA, are transferable to so many different fields and industries. And like, I can say this from like experience of like responding to emergency situations, like I am not in health care, but if I were in going into health care, that would be something that I could easily translate into my future of like having the ability to stay calm under pressure, or have the ability to kind of be a first responder, before you know an EMS comes. Or another side of it, because I am a, I'm now in design and communications, and so I had to design flyers for my events. And I would make pumpkin painting events for fall. Or I'd make a you know, movie night flyer. And so I got to use those flyers that I created as an example, for my internship right after college, of my graphic design skills. So it's a really transferable role. And I think that you can find it to be a segue into any career. And you can find that relational point. And if not, those interpersonal connections, and those interpersonal skills that you build, are transferable to every dimension of life no matter what it is. And I think that I definitely have bloomed into more of an extrovert than I was before, because I was very shy when I was younger. So I didn't really have as much of a voice like that I could just, you know, talk to people and like, not care about it. But being a an RA really got me past that. And I learned to communicate with people because there was a reason to, because I had to, because that was what my role was, but it also helped me take those skills into my own life.


Liz Bolsoni  09:53
So it sounds like you have a lot of skills that you carry with you after graduation. And that's a really great reason to join or to be an RA. So for people who are interested in pursuing this opportunity, how can they start the process, and what are some resources or tips that you can share?


Asha Mohamud  10:12
So I have a couple of resources that I can share in the show notes. But you can look up any university that you're interested in, and you can put in either "Housing and Residential Life" or "Become an RA," next to it. And if you can find that Housing and Residential Life page, usually you'll find information on what their Housing and Residential Life program is, and how being an RA works at your specific college or university, I think that it really differs based off of public or private colleges. And the perks also differ. And so there are a lot of different programs out there. So research and see what the requirements are. And usually you can fulfill those requirements and apply I think, by your second year of college. Or if you transfer, you know, that could be as soon as you transfer or, you know, there's there's options. And the second resource I'd plug is called ACUHO-I. So if you're a current RA or a CA -- I went into the ACUHO-I program and ACUHO-I stands for American Colleges and Universities Housing Opportunities [Association of College & University Housing Officers - International]. And so ACUHO-I is basically like an RA exchange program. So if you become an RA, and you want to go and be an RA at a different college just for the summer, or the next, or like, you know, for a student exchange for over a semester, you can go through the ACUHO-I program and get placed in the United States, and even internationally, a different college or program. And so I went to Berklee College of Music in Boston for that. And so I worked at Berklee, and it was such an amazing experience, because I'm really interested in music. So I got to just kind of be an A over there. And like, my role was actually a little bit different, but it was so, it was such an amazing experience. And so I would not [have] been able to do any of that if it weren't for me becoming an RA. So yeah, I'd say that, that definitely check those out. And if you have any questions, like, reach out to your local university, or the program that you're interested in, and they can definitely connect you.


Liz Bolsoni  12:31
Yeah. So it sounds like you can kind of be a part of lots of different communities as an RA, whether it's traveling across the country or staying on your own campus. And speaking of community, that is one of the major benefits of being an RA, is you get to create a positive learning environment and safe community for residents. So for students who, either for financial reasons or because of distance learning, don't have the option to live on campus, how do you suggest that they engage in those positive and safe communities on campus?


Asha Mohamud  13:10
I really want to emphasize that it's really important to create that space for yourself, for a positive learning environment. I guess my experience is -- because I just graduated this May, so I kind of been through the college experience. And I'd say that you have to, you got to find your study spots.


Liz Bolsoni  13:30


Asha Mohamud  13:31
Yeah, you can tell. Yeah, I'm sure you can, you also know this, Liz. But just so, when you go to, when you're going through your classes and stuff, you're gonna have to sit and grind for, you know, about like, your classes, you got to really work hard. And I think that's something that helps is having a learning space that is conducive to your learning style. So if you need a little bit of a distraction, maybe a coffee shop is good for you. If you'd like to have that, you know, you know drink on the side, like the little Starbucks or whatever.


Liz Bolsoni  14:02
Mysterious coffee shop girl.


Asha Mohamud  14:04
yeah, you know, pull up the the lo-fi study beads to you know, relax to, or you can have that. Or, you know, if you need that really quiet silent library, then there's that option where you can go to your local, you know, college library, or the public library and just kind of put in your earbuds and grind. So you just kind of have to find your space. And if that is your bedroom versus that is a coffee shop, or that is a library, or that is in your hammock outside like in the sun, it does not matter. If you get that, if you have that space and it works for you, it works for you. And so I think that that was what I would, advice I would give is you have to really find what works for you.


Liz Bolsoni  14:45
So as you reflect on being a student during the past year, like you said -- and congratulations on graduating by the way you made it. So you were a student like a lot of us during a nationwide reckoning with racial and social injustice, especially in the states, such immediate instances of police violence. We also were students during a pandemic, distance learning, and so much more. That's just a few examples of some of the challenges that students faced this year. So what are your parting words for listeners? Based on kind of what you've said today? What do you hope, life after now looks like for students,


Asha Mohamud  15:23
Community serves as an important role in our well being. And I think the best way to like continue life after now would be to live in a place where a community comes first. And that we care about each other's well being before we care about getting, you know, things done or worked on. And I think that somebody once told me like, "Rest is revolutionary." And I really agree with that sentiment. And I think that taking time to yourself, and really just resting and taking care of your well being, and making sure that people around you are good, is so powerful. And I think that that is one of the foundations of building a good community, is filling your own cup, and I said this earlier, making sure to fill your cup, and being around people who will fill you up as you fill them up, and kind of having that mutual, mutual reception. And I think also, mutual aid, you know, and mutual aid is so important. And I think, you know, just in Minneapolis have lately, because I'm from Minneapolis, and just seeing all the community outside, you know, supporting the protests, and you know, the memorial, the George Floyd Memorial, and just kind of being out there and you know, bringing yourself to the table and like bringing yourself to those spaces, you can really understand what true community looks like. And so I think that that is the goal on your college campuses, in your home, in your neighborhoods. Yeah, that's what I hope that life after now can look like.


Liz Bolsoni  17:09
Thank you, I really appreciate your words about rest being revolutionary. And I would add to that, as young people and just, just based, whoever you are, taking care of yourself as an act of resistance against the powers that are just --


Asha Mohamud  17:24


Liz Bolsoni  17:24
-- meaning to take you down or even just to make life hard. So take care of yourself, because that's revolutionary, right. So thank you so much for joining me today and sharing your experience about being a CA and offering some words of encouragement.


Asha Mohamud  17:42
Thank you, Liz, I love this podcast. I love what you're doing. And you know, keep doing you. I love it.


Liz Bolsoni  17:50
All right. Before we end here, I want to give a quick shout out to our listeners. Thanks so much for joining us today. This podcast is brought to you by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. I encourage you to dig into the resources mentioned in this episode, which you can find in the show notes on our website at Don't forget to follow this podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts, so that you don't miss any future episodes. Until next time, I'm Liz Bolsoni. Stay well, stay hopeful, and stay ready because you all are the future.

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