Life in a learning community

The inside perspective from Residential Life student workers

Students sitting on a bed in a dorm room
Students studying together in a residence hall.

Just like college classes, residential living on a college campus is a new learning experience. From the realities of sharing space with a roommate, to the late-night hangouts with friends, you will likely discover a “new normal” that will shape your college experience.

First-year living: What to expect

At Gettysburg College, the residential experience is unique because 90 percent of students live on campus. Here, you’ll be in great company amongst other residential students, where the residential experience is all about meeting and living amongst different people.

For first-year students, housing assignments and roommate pairings are assigned at random. Housing assignments are announced a couple of weeks prior to your arrival to Gettysburg College. This gives students plenty of time to reach out to their new roommate and coordinate how you would like to set up your new shared room!

Student with parents inside a dorm room on Move-In Day
A first-year student moves into her new room with help from her family.

As a first-year student, you will live in one of the two first-year quads: West and East quad. Each residence hall offers personal space, group lounges and seminar rooms. All students within a First-Year Seminar (FYS) will live in the same residence hall, which provides you with the opportunity to integrate your academic and social lives. This unique living/learning experience allows you to learn and work with other students and faculty on common interests and goals while purposefully forming connections that support the transition to college.

Gabi Eglinton ’21 stated, “The FYS introduced me to some of my best friends. Sam Hann ’21 and I met the first week of my freshman year, when everyone was settling in and beginning to form interpersonal connections. I'm a senior now, and we are still incredibly close to this day.” Gabi is one of many students here at Gettysburg College who loved the opportunity to live with everyone in their seminar. The connections that form because of these First-Year seminars can last a lifetime.

RAs and CAs: Who are they and what do they do?

Important roles in these residential communities are the Resident Assistants (RAs) and Community Advisors (CAs). These individuals are student leaders who live with you, inform you of all college policies and events, and most importantly, serve as a support system for you. They know the ins and outs of residential living, and are there to guide you through your first year of college.

Resident Assistants (RAs) are upperclass students who live on first-year floors. RAs conduct monthly community meetings, where important topics related to the College are discussed, and community amongst the floor is built. Additionally, RAs help run the Charting Your Course (CYC) program, an extended orientation program designed to empower and encourage first-year students to get involved across campus.

Maddie Miller and Daniel Janzow
Maddie Miller ’21 (left) and Daniel Janzow ’21 (center) with fellow RAs in front of the fountain at Gettysburg College.

Community Advisors (CAs) are RAs for upperclass students. CAs are involved in developing relationships with their residents and facilitating the sense of community within their living space. The CA position is unique as they serve as peer advisors with the skills to facilitate discussions that support their residents’ academic progress, personal development, and career exploration. They work collaboratively with the Sophomore Success Program, which is similar to the CYC program. I am currently a CA in Apple Hall, an apartment-style residence hall consisting mostly of juniors and seniors.

Daniel Janzow ’21, has worked in Residential Life since his sophomore year, and put it best when it comes to RAs and Cas: “I think that there needs to be a sense of respect and boundaries. Your community advisors or resident assistants are not out to get you. They are there to help you, so trust them and allow them to get to know you. You will experience far more success if you trust them and participate in the community.”

Students sitting and studying in a Gettysburg College dorm room
Students find time for both work and play in their residence hall.

Challenges and how to overcome them

In my past role as an RA, I’ve observed that one of the hardest transitions for students is adjusting to living with a roommate—who is also a stranger!—for the first time. Janzow shared his thoughts and advice on how to overcome the challenge: “Communication is of paramount importance in roommate issues. Oftentimes, it's just students who haven't been able to talk about how they actually feel or are upset about something. They do not feel like they are being heard in the room or the community. So, try to communicate before getting others involved and if this situation escalates, then do not hesitate to get others involved.”

Striking the balance between social and academic life is also a hurdle that a lot of students must overcome while they are living with their peers. We do not expect you to be able to overcome these hurdles alone. The only expectation we have for you is to reach out and communicate with us and your peers to navigate your first year at college. We want you to succeed!

Three female students and a male student studying together in a residence hall
Students studying together in a residence hall.

Making the most of your residential experience

Living with new individuals provides you with life-changing experiences. It presents a space in which you can exchange ideas, get pushed outside your comfort zone, and interact and communicate with students of different backgrounds--embrace those differences!

The residential life program is designed to provide students with the opportunity to learn about themselves, others, and how to be engaged citizens on campus. Go into college with an open mind, and you will succeed. There are a lot of new opportunities waiting for you at a residential college like Gettysburg, and I can promise you that you won’t regret living in a shared community with your peers.

Learn more about first-year living at Gettysburg College.

By Maddie Miller ’21
Photos by Shawna Sherrell, Daniel Bigelow Winter and courtesy of Maddie Miller
Posted: 11/23/20