Resident Assistants: Making NYU Shanghai A Home Away From Home


Every year, an incoming class of first year students enter NYU Shanghai’s campus, diving headfirst into the whirlwind of university life. But as students get used to campus culture, there are bound to be some stumbling blocks. Behind the scenes, a team of warm-hearted upper level students are on-duty 24/7 at Jingyao Residence Hall to smooth out any kinks and ensure students’ needs are taken care of.  

Supervised by Residential Life, the Resident Assistants (RAs) each oversee one to two floors of students. They do everything from organize meaningful student events and programs, mediate interpersonal disputes, and support daily life in the residence halls - including keeping the laundry room organized to clearing out fridge leftovers. 

Three RAs share how they’ve made the role their own. 

Maanyaa Jain ’25: Uniting Students Through Poetry 

picMaanyaa Jain ’25 (back, center) hosting her Poetry Salon in the 4F Calm Corner

While serving as an RA during her sophomore year, Maanyaa Jain ’25, from Jaipur, India, turned to her love of creative writing and created a poetry salon series to support the students on her floor. It quickly became a hit.

“[It] started as a way to help the residents on my floor get to know each other on a deeper level,” Jain said.“I felt that literature and poetry was a fantastic way to create connections with strangers.” The first one was so popular she decided to make it a series of events with different themes. 

During the four salons she organized during the Spring 2023 semester, residents were encouraged to submit poems on a theme ( winter, for instance, or new beginnings). Jain printed the poems for each attendee to discuss in the session. She encouraged students to come along even if they hadn’t written a poem, and supplied them with source material that they could choose to read aloud. Some students even brought along their favorite song lyrics to read aloud, or poems from their childhood.

“For our last salon, Creative Writing fellow Jasmine Zou ’21 helped guide discussion for more fruitful conversation,” Jain remembers. “It was particularly magical when people came in with original poems, and the attendees all shared which lines they particularly loved and how they interpreted them.”

 Jain said the events were rewarding for her because she got to fulfill her RA job responsibilities while building a community among students who shared the same interests. Jain said students told her the salons were a comfortable safe space. 

“My main goal was to bring like-minded people together to be able to share their experiences and passion for poetry,” Jain said, “and the experience grew into something more precious to me than I had even hoped for.” 

Bale Chen ’24: Building Cross-Cultural Communications

baleLeft: Bale Chen ’24 (left) with fellow RAs Lindsey Wang ’23, Ivana Li ’24, Aura Liu ’24 in the “Brain Brawl” event in fall 2021; Right: Group photo at the Brain Brawl closing ceremony in fall 2022

For Shanghai native Bale Chen ’24, being an RA has been the most rewarding part of his college life at NYU Shanghai. The most valuable lesson he’s learned from the job is one that he shares with the residents: how to “make friends through effective communication.”

Chen organized various events to help students from different cultural backgrounds understand each other, including collaborating with other RAs to organize a school-wide “Brain Brawl” quiz competition.  

The most rewarding part of being an RA though, Chen said, was helping residents with the everyday challenges and conflicts that students face while at college. “Our students come from different countries and regions, [and] it’s normal to have different living habits,” he said. Chen organized regular meetings to promote communication between roommates, and came up with a system to help students avoid disputes over whose turn it was to use the laundry room. He even accompanied residents to the hospital when they were faced with a medical emergency. “I am honored to be a community leader and want to make sure each resident has a smooth dormitory life,” he said. 

Wen Huiwei ’25 was one of Chen’s residents when she was a first-year student and inspired by him, she decided to follow in his footsteps. “One of the things that impressed me the most was that he kept track of all the residents' birthdays and would send out birthday wishes in the group chat,” she remembers. “After becoming an RA myself, I could see how this is invaluable!” 

Phylicia Bandoh: Creating a Close-Knit Community 

Phylicia Bandoh ’26 from Maryland, USA became an RA at NYU Shanghai to assist new students adjusting to college life.

Even though she spent two weeks in training with Residential Life to prepare for the fall semester, the reality of Move-In Day caught her a bit by surprise. “It was definitely hectic,” she said “After everybody moved in, I had to have my first floor meeting, and I have three floors!” 

Left: Bandoh (center) with undergraduate and graduate residents during “Tour of Anfu Road,” a floor program she created to get residents exploring new places in the city. Right: Bandoh leads an ice-breaking event during Welcome Week where pairs of students from different class years ask each other ‘this or that’ questions.  

After that first day in the dorms, Bandoh has settled into her role as RA for 43 first-year students living on three floors. Among other duties, she’s responsible for dealing with roommate conflicts, tackling overnight shifts, and helping students handle homesickness. Part of her routine includes a daily “community walk.” She makes the rounds from 9-10 at night before heading back to her own room to work on homework, but remains on call throughout the night. 

Bandoh says she’s looking forward to working on events and initiatives to bring the first-year students together. She and a resident are planning a waffles and pancake breakfast in the dorm’s common space. Bandoh also plans to host a “murder mystery” game night next month ”So students can kind of destress after midterms,” she explained.

After reflecting on her own experiences as a resident and now an RA, Bandoh’s advice to students is to keep communication open–with your roommate and with the RAs. “Communication is what makes or breaks a roommate relationship,” she said. “If you are having conflicts, feel free to reach out to your RA, because that’s what we’re here for–to help make your residential life as smooth as possible.”