My First Semester…

stayby Shontai M Pohl, Marist Italy MA 2013-14

My first semester as a Resident Director (RA) has been an eye opening experience. Before my arrival in Florence I had found that I was excited and little nervous for not only my new appointed position, but for the opportunity to study abroad in Italy. Not sure of what to expect after a very long and tiring flight, I was happy to find that my arrival in Florence was greeted by a very kind member of the Marist team who had quickly and efficiently escorted me to the apartment that I was to be in charge of the coming semester.

Not yet filled with this year’s Marist FFE Students, I walked into a very quiet and empty apartment. Because the students were not going to arrive for another week, I decided to take the opportunity to go explore the city of Florence on my own; this exploration led me to market places, street vendors, and small chic cafes placed throughout the city. I felt that by the time the students began to arrive, I was going to feel somewhat confident in guiding and direction them through these areas.

After my first week the students started to arrived at the apartment, which meant that it was a bustling place. For the first few days it took some time for each of the eighteen students to find their rooms, unpack their items, and get settled, and as you can image, the apartment was no longer an empty, quiet place. Once things did began to settle down I was able to hold a meeting of the minds, that is, a meeting where the students and I discussed the rules and expectations of living in Marist’s housing. This meeting was essential in order for me to get to know each of the students’ names, faces, and room numbers. In the three weeks that followed life was somewhat hectic – primarily because the students were excited about being in Florence and need to be reminded quite often about the standard 11:00pm noise ordinance in place all around the city. There, of course, were a few maintenance issues needing to be dealt with in regards to student rooms and common areas, but, after this initial phase, the students and I fell into a regular routine of study and living.

The FFE students and I are now in the 14th week of the semester. Over the semester I have found working as an RA to be enjoyable and rewarding. That is not to say that living with eighteen Freshman students doesn’t have it challenges, but it been a great experience. The most rewarding part of the position has been not only getting to know the students individually and seeing them grow with confidence, but that I, myself, have changed and grown. Being a Graduate Student at Marist, as well as an adult student, has had its difficulties and challenges. Given that I am much older than my classmates, I had left a whole lifestyle and family responsibilities behind in order to follow my dreams and finish my education. And, thanks to my loving family and very supportive husband, I am able to reach these goals of furthering my studies. Other than a couple of weeks feeling homesickness, which passed quickly, I was able to settle in to life here in Florence thanks to the Marist staff going out of their way to make me feel at home; they even offered me their offices on the weekends, so that I could better balance my student work load. All in all, I would have to say that my first semester here at Marist Italy, both as an RA and as a student, has been a great experience, and I can’t wait for next semester to begin.

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