Living On Campus Made Me a Leader

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Darryl Flanders from the British Virgin Islands never thought he would be a leader. He usually avoided it. Now he’s a leader and unstoppable! Read how his view changed just living in the residence halls.

Darryl Flanders is a graduate student studying for his Master’s of Science degree in Aeronautics with a specialization in aviation operations and systems safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Read how this international student embraced residence hall life and his advice for others who may be struggling living in the halls.

Being born and raised in a culture as relaxed and exuberant as the British Virgin Islands, I thought I knew how to balance this thing we call life. I felt like if you can survive in this culture, you can amount to anything. Well, I was wrong! After moving to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach, Florida, I found out what life truly is about. The culture demanded time management, ambition, drive and punctuality. Lucky for me, I already embody most of those characteristics but I quickly had to find myself adjusting to this fast-paced life. It wasn’t until after a semester of classes and going home for the summer break that I realized, who I thought I was, wasn’t  who I actually was or better yet who this culture needed me to be.

Darryl's home country, the British Virgin Islands

Before moving to ERAU, I was never willing to step forward and become a leader or a role model; I never sought the opportunities for leadership. Now, I am unstoppable. Being in this environment and community at ERAU, I changed my mind set to one of independence and self-confidence. I knew I had what it took to be a leader and a role model so I had to give it my all. I found myself becoming a member of the ERAU AcaFellas, a founding father of the ERAU Chapter of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity, and an active member in the Embry-Riddle Resident Student Association, just to name a few. After serving on the executive board or all these organizations, I dedicated my time and ambition to becoming a Resident Advisor. After failing the first time around, I made it my priority to use my defeat as my motivation, and I succeeded.

I currently serve as a Resident Advisor for first-year students and I couldn’t be more pleased. This was the job I wanted since I enrolled into ERAU and nothing can stop me from being the best at it. My passion for the position allows me to be that ideal role model for my residents and to be their guide. Like I always say, there are three sides to an RA: the caring and compassionate side, the creative and energetic side, and the assertive and confrontational side.

Being an international student as well as a RA, opens my mind to an understanding of different cultures and allows me to teach others – my residents- about culture awareness, respect and acceptance. And let’s not forget how much it helps with creativity!!

Darryl and the McKay hall staff 2011-2012

Becoming a RA was the best decision I have made because it has truly helped me to find out who I really was and how I handle situations. It has taught me how to be more confrontational and compassionate and it has brought out a creative side in me that I never thought existed. Thanks to all that I have learned and gained from being a RA and a role model for my residents, I have gone further and have put those skills to the test. I have had the honor to be selected as a Resident Director for the 2012-2013 school year and I will stop at nothing to get the job done.

Check out our follow up questions with Darryl and his advice for international students: 

ISV: Did you initially have any trouble or a hard time adjusting to living on campus?

Darryl: Initially, yes. The biggest concern for me was a matter of privacy and possession of things. However, I developed that trust and respect with my roommate/suitemates to ensure a more comfortable living environment. With regards to possession of things, living agreements were made by my RA which presented the opportunity for friendships to form.

ISV: Do any of the students treat you differently because you’re an international student and an RA?

Darryl: No, actually I use it to my strength. My residents are intrigued by my hometown and often question life in the British Virgin Islands. This creates a stronger bond with my residents, many of them would like to visit one day.

ISV: Can you provide an example of how you taught your residents about cultural awareness, respect, and acceptance?

Darryl: This semester I did a program called “What represents you!” It was a mini-social where residents came dressed in attire that best represents who they are, whether it be their culture/hometown, the music they listen to, sport they play, etc. During the social, I asked each resident to tell the room why they chose the attire they were wearing.

ISV: Why would you recommend international students to live in the residence halls?

Darryl: It is a great learning experience. You learn so much about other cultures and gain a wealth of knowledge about life in another world which makes you into a more well-rounded individual. It also presents the opportunity for you to travel to places you never even thought about. Academically, living in residence halls boost your GPA because it keeps your mind focused on why you enrolled into your institution and the halls are conducive to a great studying/tutoring environment. Per the motto of my department, it’s where “living and learning take flight!”

ISV: If international students are having a hard time living on campus, what advice would you give them?

Darryl: Take it one day at a time; it will get better. Use the resources provided for you, especially your RA, to help you get through the situations that are giving you a hard time. Your RA is trained to offer you the best advice possible on a student-student level and to ensure that you are having the best and most comfortable living experience on campus. Also, make friends or join groups that have similar interests to your own, this will introduce you to a world of possibilities; anything is possible.


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3 thoughts on “Living On Campus Made Me a Leader

  1. That’s my boy, Darryl! He was my advisee as an undergraduate and I’ve had the privilege of seeing him grow into the great young man that he has become. Darryl is a stellar example of how to make the most of your college experience. I have no doubt that he will make his mark on the aviation industry in his life after graduation.

  2. It is very important to have International Students serve as RAs in the residence halls and be represented. Like Darryl said this is a great leadership experience, but it can also help an international student financially. In most universities RAs get free room and boad. That’s a lot of saving for an international student paying out of state tuition. I hope other international students will follow Darry’s example.

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