Hannah Gray is a senior from Pasadena, California, a city “right across the bridge from LA” She’s a linguistics major with minors in German, computer science and art. For our interview, we met on Sunday afternoon for tea at Sencha on Grand Avenue.
Over the next half hour, Gray’s royal tea latte with pearls cooled while we talked water polo, trying (and loving) things you thought you’d hate, study abroad, discovering the word “hegemony” in a class reading, building a “birds-in-space” app and her four not-so-long years living on Dupre East.
The Mac Weekly: How did you end up at Macalester?
Hannah Gray: In April of my senior year of high school, I actually met the Water Polo team because they came out to California, and that was the first time I met students from the school. After meeting them, I was like, these people seem really nice, I really like this school and the academics and the internationalism. And then I got in and financial aid was good, so here I am, four years later.
TMW: Did you run into any of the Water Polo team members after getting to campus?
HG: I did! Well, I’m actually on the Water Polo team now. But my first semester here at college, I didn’t remember any of their faces, and I didn’t know how to go to the gym and do the lifts with the Water Polo team; it seemed very intimidating. But then they would see me in the cafeteria and they were like, “Hey, how are you doing?” And I was like, “What? You still remember my name?” But then I got to know them all and they were really nice people. I joined and started going to the workouts in the spring of my first year.
TMW: You’ve played every year?
HG: Mm-hmm. Except for last year, because I was studying abroad.
TMW: Oh, so you weren’t here for the big win?
HG: Yeah! It was so sad. A friend was Snapchatting me the entire game, because I was in a bus going back from the Netherlands to Vienna, and I didn’t have really good WiFi, but I was on the edge of my seat the whole way! But yeah, I’m sad to have missed the championship. Hoping for a repeat!
TMW: Your first year here, you lived in Dupre. Which floor?
HG: I lived on the fourth floor, Dupre 457.
TMW: And then you were an RA, starting your sophomore year. In Dupre?
HG: I always kind of knew I wanted to be an RA. I have three younger sisters; I’ve always kind of filled that role of making sure people are okay and taking care of them. And on the RA application, they ask where you want to be put, so I said I wanted to be back in Dupre because it feels familiar, and also I really wanted to work with first years. So I ended up back in Dupre, and that was a great experience. It was just a really fun year.
(Hannah was an RA on Dupre 3 her sophomore year. Fall semester junior year found her on Dupre 2, and now she’s on Dupre 5.)
TMW: What are the challenges of being an RA?
HG: The biggest challenge is that people see you as an authority figure, mostly. Which, yes, it’s true, I have to enforce the rules, that’s part of my job. But also, I’m a student, I’m a human. I’m not just this random person who’s trying to bust parties. So it’s sometimes hard to connect with certain people because they only really want to see you as an authority figure.
And then, honestly, as I’ve gotten older, one of the hard things is not having friends my own age in the dorms. Junior and senior year a lot of people move off campus, but I’m still in the dorms and involved with campus. It’s just harder to make time to see friends and whatnot because we all live farther away now.
And four years on the meal plan is a lot. The tater tots in Café Mac are still good, though.
TMW: So you studied abroad last spring in Germany and Austria – did the experience affect how you fit into Macalester after coming back?
HG: Definitely. I think studying abroad really made me recognize and appreciate the communities I have at Macalester. Res Life has been a community, Macalester Christian Fellowship (MCF) and Water Polo are all communities where I have people that I lean on and get advice from, or just laugh with – and all three of those were gone while studying abroad. So coming back, I’ve really wanted to appreciate those communities for one more year.
Studying abroad has also affected all of my stories – the staff in Dupre finds it very funny because a lot of my stories start with, “When I was in Vienna…” and so now, that’s kind of my catchphrase. They all just laugh every time it happens.
TMW: Do you know what you want to do after graduation?
HG: I’m looking more into art and computer science – web design or development, software design, user interface, [and/or] user experience. I really like thinking about how people are using a site, and making it look pretty and making it usable. There’re a lot of really bad websites out there.
TMW: So do you have a favorite website?
HG: I don’t have favorite websites, but right now I’m in the software design and development class and we’re building an app, a game for iOS. You start with a bird on the ground and he flies upwards and you have to keep tapping the screen to make him stay above the screen and if you don’t tap, he’ll eventually fall back down. The goal is just to see how far you can fly this bird into space. We’re trying to find a way to calculate how far you’re clicking to be like, “You’re at Mount Everest right now,” or “You’re in the upper atmosphere” or “You’re at the moon.” And we also want to have an exploratory mode where you can’t die; you just tap and see how far into space you can make it.
TMW: Since you’re a senior, what sort of advice do you have for students who are starting out?
HG: Get involved with orgs or things that seem interesting to you, because that’s where you’ll begin to find friends with common interests.
Also, try something new. Branch out. I took a comp sci class my second semester first year, because I’d been complaining to a friend that I didn’t like digital things, because I didn’t understand how they worked. So then she was like, “Well why don’t you take a comp sci class?” And I thought, “No, that’s – like, what? Why would I do that?” But I ended up doing it. And I found a whole new field that I really liked.
TMW: When Danai Gurira gave the Commencement Address in 2016, she talked about a “Mac Moment.” Have you had a moment that made you realize how Macalester has impacted you?
HG: There were definitely moments on study abroad, having conversations with people – actually with Anna Bruijn ’18. We had this really long conversation about religion and all kinds of things, and we’d also been talking about theater and life, and it was this kind of moment where I was just like, “Wow.” Mac is a place that has allowed me one, to travel to other places, but even in traveling to those other places, to have conversations with people about really crazy, deep topics.
I had a kind of Mac Moment in my Endangered and Minority Languages class this semester – I finally read the word “hegemony” in a reading and I was like, “I’ve found it. I’ve found the word that everyone talks about at Macalester.” It was just cool to talk about power dynamics and oppression in linguistics, which is the field that I study, and think about those things that Mac talks about so much, because my classes haven’t always had space to talk about that.
TMW: What are your goals for senior year?
HG: Just connecting with people and friends that I’ve made through the past three years, not just kind of floating through senior year, talking to whoever is nearest to me or who I see the most often, but making time to see friends and people that I’ve met over these years that I’ve been here.