Life Skills

Student Affairs is a way of life.  Not just with how we view the world or the values we hold, but literally how we live it: especially for those Residence Life folks living in.

I have many friends who work in other fields.  All are in various life stages, but most have completed college and are starting to settle down in their city of choice.  They are currently purchasing houses/condos, and fixing up those new living spaces.  I see photos of rooms with new furniture and pretty paint colors and hear tales of the sweat that goes into fixing the leaks in sprinkler systems, doing yard work, and re-doing parts of their new homes.

And then I think about my experience.  I went directly from high school to college, from college to graduate school, and from graduate school to my first professional job.  I lived in a residence hall for seven years now.  I have never rented my own apartment or a space in a house with friends.  It has been quite convenient to move into furnished spaces that are part of my compensation, so no complaints from me. 

However, I also feel like I am missing out.  If I need anything done in my apartment, I submit a work order.  I have never had to hang a picture in my life, paint a wall, or fix a leaky faucet.  Even if I wanted to do these things, I am asked to refrain (which is actually probably best for the physical structure of the building in which I reside).  But I know that I will eventually move into a space I rent or own that I will have to care for.   What the heck am I going to do?   (Answer: Learn.  I’m going to learn.  It may just take a while.)

So while I may not have some of the practical life skills I need to purchase and then fix up a place of residency, I have more important life skills.  Ones that I can’t pay other people for ‘quick fixes.’  I have mediation and problem solving skills.  I have the ability to strike up an un-awkward conversation with anyone I choose, and I can make a presumed awkward conversation sincere and not awkward.  I have learned to have difficult conversations about job performance with those I supervise and can help those who are in the midst of the mental health crisis.  These, by no means, are skills that I have perfected, but I feel comfortable using them when needed and am willing to continue developing them.   They have also helped me in many other life situations unrelated to my position in Higher Education.

So while I may often say jokingly, “I have no life skills” to my friends who live and work outside of Residence Life, I know this to be quite the opposite of the truth.  The life skills I (and you) have are way more important.

Katie Schmalzel

Student Affairs - the First Years

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