By Kieran Portman, Resident Assistant, Bentley House
This summer, I will be graduating from Aston University, Birmingham, with a degree in law. Throughout the year I’ve been juggling my studies with a job at Bentley House. It’s a purpose built student accommodation of 534 beds about five minutes walk from the Aston campus and less than fifteen minutes walk to the Bullring, and the cultural hub of the city centre.
The Resident Assistant role is a unique one. I live at the residence and act as a constant face of reassurance for everyone. I spend my working time organising community events at the property, amongst other administrative duties that draw upon my previous placement experience. We have had some hundreds of people through the common room doors to participate in events which range from celebrating pancake day to sexual health talks.
The most popular event that we have organised this year was the Great Bentley Bake-Off. This was a great opportunity for flats to combine their creative and culinary minds, breaking the stereotype that all students can ever make is cheesy pasta. As Bentley House’s very own Paul Hollywood, judging such a high quality of competition was a very difficult, yet tasty, task. It also has to be noted that bringing in a family of meerkats was another extremely popular event – animals can be a great source of stress relief for students!
One of the major discussion points for private student accommodation providers is wellbeing. Mental health, as a concept, is not just about the major episodes that someone might suffer, but maintaining an environment where someone can address the small issues in their life before they allow it to take over into something much more impactful. Although I am not yet a qualified mental health first aider, when I have brought in fun or serious experts into our social spaces I can see that, when students are able to access advice and guidance in the place where they live, this adds to the effectiveness of a student’s support network.
I usually work from 3pm to 5pm and as well as sorting out the mundane aspects of life, such as questions about the washing machines, the real purpose of my role is to be a friendly and visible face, so that students have someone they feel comfortable to talk to. Whether you have something to celebrate, or if you are feeling down after a difficult lecture, it’s about talking it out – before problems begin to manifest.
This role has been a step outside of my comfort zone and that experience will translate into better understanding people’s behaviours in the professional business environment. Personally, I have been able to reflect on my time at Bentley House extremely positively, having built on my patience and developed my creative side, especially when utilising a broad range of social media to communicate with our residents. As the first ever resident at Bentley House and one of its first ever Resident Assistants, I look forward to keeping in touch with the team and returning one day soon to see how the wellbeing programme continues to grow.