Like all freshman, I was assigned to a Residential College Adviser (RCA) when I came into Princeton. Each RCA is responsible for a group of around 15-20 advisees (“zees”), and the primary role of the RCA is—as the RCA Handbook says—to "foster a welcoming, safe, and stimulating environment for all residents of the college” and to help ease the transition into college life.

My RCA was fantastic—thoughtful, funny, and full of advice. I was so grateful for all that she did for us. She held weekly study breaks (which are a great excuse to take a break from work to get together with friends and hallmates and eat a bunch of food), doled out tons of snacks, and stayed up late listening to our complaints and making us feel better about our worries. I couldn’t believe how generous she was. I knew she was a full-time student and involved in a million activities and writing a thesis and applying for jobs, and yet she took time out of her days and weeks to be there for us. I felt like I was so lucky to have such a wonderful role model to look out for me. 

What I’ve realized since becoming an RCA is that this feeling goes both ways. I am so grateful for everything I do as an RCA. Yes, it can be time-consuming, especially at the beginning of the year, but it’s work that I enjoy.

Last year, I worked with some amazing sophomores, and this year I have a group of wonderful freshmen. My zees are among some of the most incredible people that I have met at Princeton—thoughtful and talented, generous and respectful. Each of my zees has such an incredible story; each one has such big goals. And to see Princeton through a freshman’s eyes again! It's rejuvenating. Listening to their stories and answering their questions reminds me of all that I felt when I first came to campus. It reminds me of just how engaging and vibrant our campus can be, and of just how frustrating and scary it can be, too. 

For some, the RCA and zee group structure is something that helps the zees immensely, and they become very involved in this community. For some, the RCA and zee group factor very little into the zees' Princeton experience, and they find their place outside the zee group.

As RCAs, we're happy either way—the idea behind the zee group is just to provide built-in support for freshmen if they want it. For most, the RCA role and zee group is something that is important for the first few weeks, when zees want someone to field their questions, and when they need friendly faces to help them navigate somewhere new, and the RCA and zee group becomes less important over time. For me, the RCA role is something that has spanned across my years at Princeton, and I am so grateful for that experience and for all those I have met through the role. 

Mathey at Clash of the Colleges
Mathey Dean of Student Life, Mathey RCAs, and Mathey freshman at the 2014 Clash of the Colleges - where Mathey Residential College was declared winner!

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