Excerpt: Intro

You’ve got to start somewhere
Find a reason, get a clue

– For Sara

Everybody wants to make a difference. Once in a while, we get a chance to.

My name is Andy. I was born in Seoul, South Korea. Adopted before I was born, shipped to the USA when I was a few months old, and American as baseball ever since. In Korea, I received the name Ik Hawn Kim. I couldn’t tell you what it means if my life depended on it. Here, my adoptive parents named me Andrew Michael Butler. I’ve been Andy ever since. I’m 20 years old, I’m a junior at college, and last year, I had one of those rare chances to truly make a difference. I was a resident assistant.

Challenging, exciting, heartbreaking, saddening, nerve-wracking. Being a resident assistant was all of these things. But more than anything else, it was the most rewarding experience of my life. I made some incredible friends, was introduced to new cultures and perspectives, and I learned more about the world around me than I can even begin to explain. At some schools, RAs are merely policemen, upper class students who want nothing to do with their residents and smile only when they’re told to. Not at my school. At Ashford University, we’re about community. And community is what I tried to build. In the process, stories were created and relationships were forged.

The phrase “New House 5” could mean anything. It sounds like it could be a band name, a superhero group, maybe a secret code. But for me, New House 5 means more than you can imagine. New House 5 was my floor. New House was the name of our dorm. It was so new, as we liked to say, that it didn’t have a name. I was on was the 5th floor, the top of the building. Hence, New House 5. In August, it was just a floor. By the following May, it was my home.

The story I am about to tell you is based in truth. The names have been changed, a few of the situations have been dramatized, some characters have been altered to protect anonymity, and I could not remember some of the conversations verbatim. But what happened to me last year, what happened to the floor I was a resident assistant for, what you are about to read, all really took place. All on one residential floor, in one year. Thinking about it now, I can’t believe some of the things that happened and I feel fortunate that I had a chance to make that difference. I think I made the most of my opportunity, but that’s up to you to decide.

The friendships I made with residents on my floor last year are some of the strongest I’ve made in my life. The people in this story are people I truly connected with, people I truly love, and people I will never forget. This story is for all of them, for everyone who made my experience as a resident assistant for New House 5 the most amazing year of my life. Through all of the tribulations, through all of the drama, through all of the problems, we were always there for each other. We were always a community. That’s what this story is about. New House 5: A community.

Right now, I’m back at school for my junior year. Sitting in front of my glowing laptop, nothing feels more appropriate than telling you my story. Everything is true, everything is real, everything elicits some kind of emotion in my soul. Writing this will no doubt make me nostalgic about what has happened to me and to the people around me over the last fifteen months. The clock on my alarm radio tells me it’s 12:32 am. If I’m going to tell you everything that happened last year, we might be here for a while. Let me go put on some pajamas, make some hot chocolate, and tell you the best story I’ve ever been a part of.

Note to Current/Future Resident Assistants

I thought long and hard about whether or not to publish this book once I finished writing it. I knew it would upset my close friends, the people who the book is about, and I knew it would cause people to question my honesty and trustworthiness. But when it came down to it, I decided to go ahead and publish the book for two reasons.

One, everything that happened is in the past. These are things we cannot change. We may not be proud of them, but they happened, and that’s history. The best thing to do is to learn from them, from the past. My hope is that everyone who was part of this story will understand that, and will endeavor to learn from the mistakes that they and their peers made.

Two, I think the learning can go beyond just the people in the story. It wouldn’t be worth it if I just exposed those students to each other. But my hope is that you, potential and current RAs from all over the country, can read New House 5 and be inspired by it. You can learn from what I did well and what I did not so well. You can learn from the different experiences the residents on my floor had. While the book is somewhat fictional, it is based in truth, and my goal is for you to take this book and use it as a tool, not just a story.

RAs have one of the most unique opportunities in the world. Don’t waste that chance. Form your own ideas and figure out what works for you. Each person will have a different experience, but you can shape that experience by applying your own personality to the RA role. Take some chances. And have fun, too.