Many teenagers imagine summer to be filled with sunny days and nonstop relaxation. While there’s no shortage of sun this summer at American University, students in the Discover the World of Communication program at American University aren’t relaxing 24/7.
These high school students traded in ice cream and pools for interviews and articles to spend at least two weeks in an intensive academic environment. They write. They act. They interview. They film.
But skill-building isn’t all these students have on their plate. They’re handed a brand new challenge.
Summer students face the challenge of living on their own and learning the new rules of the road.
“It’s hard to learn how to manage yourself after having your parents watch over you for the first 18 years of your life,” said Ryan Anderson, American University’s assistant director of learning communities and assessment floor residential education. “I sometimes even see moms still calling to wake their kids up and make sure they get to class on time.”
American University’s dorm rules are fairly simple: no drugs, no alcohol and nothing that could start a fire. This leaves students with a long list of things they can do that they couldn’t do at home. With no curfew or food restrictions, students could slip into habits they never formed before. That’s where resident assistants — who live on the floor with students — come in.
“I try to take a more friendly approach when I RA,” said Lauren Montanaro, an AU alum who spent two years as a resident assistant. “It’s easier for the kids to feel like they can come to me if they have an issue that needs to be resolved, no matter how big or small it is.”
Montanaro’s job as a resident assistant is to help students adjust to the new rules and newfound freedom.
“They adjust,” Anderson said. “It can take some time, but they do adjust.”
While school officials create campus policies, students form their own rules to help build a community.
“You have to keep your door open when you’re a freshman so that you can meet people,” said Dan Roberts, a rising AU senior. “Never stay in your room.”
The DWC students are living at college only temporarily, but they said they are now better prepared to handle what lies ahead.
“I have never been to camp before so staying in a dorm was a new experience,” said Erica Schwartz, a DWC student. “I do think it will help me prepare for college because I have to share my room now…it’s a whole new lifestyle.”
Roberts added this piece of advice to students who want to keep their college friends: “Clean up after yourself in the lounge. You just have to.”