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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Ra Ra Ra! A conversation with senior R.A.s

The Mac Weekly recently sat down with four senior R.A.s who have worked with Res Life for three years, to talk about their experiences with the job.


TMW: Seeing as this is the first spotlight of the year, you guys have to kind of be simultaneously hilarious and also really awesome. Alexx Harley: We don’t have a problem with that.
Michelle Kiang: And also beautiful and sassy. Hannah Trivilino: That’s also the job description for RA. MK: Did we mention beautiful?

TMW: All right, let’s just say your name, where you call home, your major slash minor, and then what floor you’re currently an RA on.

HT: I’m Hannah Trivilino. I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’m a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major and I have minors in Media and Cultural Studies and American Studies. This year I am in Grand Cambridge Apartments, last year I was in the Summit House, and the year before I was in the Veggie Coop.

MK: I’m Michelle Kiang. I am from San Cristobal, Venezuela and Houston, Texas. I am a Creative Writing major and an American Studies minor, maybe. Right now I’m in Doty 3, and the year before that I was in Summit House, and the year before that I was in Doty 5.

Agnes Biswalo: I am Agnes Biswalo. I –

HT: Is someone smoking pot outside?

AH: Yeah, somebody is smoking pot.

MK: Ohhhh, shit. Wait is that in my area?

TMW: Can this go in The Mac Weekly?

AH to MK: No, just sit down. They’re smoking pot like right here, though.

HT: Oh god.

AH: The vent is pulling in pot smoke during an RA interview. Let’s just, just sit down, just sit down. OK, let Agnes go.

MK: Oh my gosh, this is really bothering me.

AB: So I’m Agnes Biswalo. I am from – shush Alexx! –

MK: We’re going to get high in here.

AB: OK, you guys, you guys. We don’t have time! I’m still Agnes Biswalo. I am from Dar El Salaam, Tanzania, and lived a significant part of my life in Manzini, Swaziland, so those are my two homes. I’m a Psychology major, Community and Global Health concentrator, and this year I’m an RA in Kirk one, two, and three. My previous two years I was an RA in Dupre. Dupre 4 East and 5 West.

AH: Hi, my name is Alexandra Harley, Alexx for short with two x’s, so you don’t get that messed up. I’m from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the better side of Pennsylvania—

HT: Ouch!

AH: —I’m a double major in Anthropology and Latin American Studies with a minor in Hispanic Studies, and currently this year I’m an RA in the Specialty Houses slash language houses. So, all of the language houses, Eco House, and Food Justice House, or now Food House this year. Last year I was an RA in Turck 4, after I studied abroad, and the year before I was an RA on Dupre 5 West.

TMW: Do you four senior RAs have a go-to name?

MK: Team Royalty.

HT: Ham.

TMW: Ham?

HT: Hannah, Alexx, Agnes, Michelle. Or MAAH. Or AAHM.

AH: Can we be the MAAHs? The Sexy MAAHs?

MK: The Sexy Mas?

TMW: So, you guys are all RAs for a third straight year. What is it about being an RA that makes you keep wanting to come back?

AH: Well, I am naturally a “mama bird” or “mama hen”—

AB: Mama bear.

AH: Mama bear. Mama dinosaur. Mama Intimidate-the-f— -out-of-you. I have a mama complex. After the last three years of being an RA, I definitely have well over at least 30 people that I call my “babies” on campus and they know who they are. What made me want this job was, I came in, you know, first generation college student, not really knowing how to ask the questions that I had. I really didn’t know how to use my RA. I didn’t really know anything. So, my experience, you know, kind of sink or swim during freshman year, made me want to – not prevent that because I think it’s healthy growth and experience – but just be there and make it clear that I was a resource as an RA, and help the next class come in, whether they’re first generation college students, or just coming from a different part of the country or the state, or the world. Whatever they needed, I was there for them and it was something that I really value in terms of my Macalester experience. That’s why I keep coming back. And it’s just fun, minus some parts—

HT: Like kids smoking pot outside—

AH: Like kids trying to hotbox RAs in the Doty Formal Lounge.

MK: I can’t just…

AH: You’re not gonna find them.

MK: They’re probably like under the bushes or in a tree or something.

AH: Or in the grate.

TMW: You kind of touched on another question I had, which is what do you guys see as the main roles of an RA on campus?

MK: It’s like really what you make it to be. Everyone has a different RAing style.

AB: Also, your relationships with residents differ. [Some] will need you as just a basic resource, others want a friend, so it really depends on your own personality and your residents’ personalities.

HT: And like where you are. First years have different needs than seniors. So, I don’t know, I had a lot of seniors last year who were always stressed taking their capstones or the juniors who were all also stressed. We spent a lot of time bonding over negativity. [Laughs] Which is not something I would ever do if I had first years.

AH: You have to stay positive with them.

HT: I mean, I’m also positive. Sophomore year all positive RAing experience.

TMW: It’s just the seniors that need the negativity.

HT: We also celebrated so… it was not just like—

TMW: Just morbid.

HT: It was only half morbid. Yeah, but also when you said what is the main thing… I like being a resource. If you can be a resource for somebody where they need a resource that they might not have in anybody else, to me that’s what I view my job as. Like Agnes was saying, for one person it’s a friend, for one person it’s having them to go grocery shopping, for one person it’s helping them find a job. I think it’s being the person to fill in that odd thing that they don’t have.

MK: It’s like a job that’s not really a job, too, because you’re not necessarily just doing one thing. You have to adapt to whatever a resident needs, whether that’s like – yeah, I drove someone to a grocery store – it was PJ! Shoutout to PJ – but yeah, it’s really different per area, so right now I have freshmen again and it’s awesome because I get to see the perspective of what it was like to be a first year. I’m also living on the same floor that I lived on my freshman year, which is you know, full circle, so I feel really happy, feel like I get a lot of positive energy from people who haven’t been through college yet, and it sort of makes me feel a lot less critical about just my own college experience, and just trying to enjoy the positivity, and [to HT] are you smelling your shirt?

HT: It smells like a brownie still.

AB: Getting back to what Michelle said about how it’s not like an actual job, I find it funny when I tell [people] I work with first years, they’re like “Oh my god that must be hard!” I don’t think it’s my job that way, just because there’s so much flexibility and fluidity and newness in each day. Also, one thing I really enjoy is, like Alexx said, seeing people grow. Like, “Oh I saw you when you entered the dorm for the first time and now you’re a junior, oh my god.” That’s just amazing.

AH: Dude, my first year residents are asking me when I’m taking them out for their twenty-first birthday parties because since their first year they’ve wanted to party with the RAs. You know, we can’t do that.

MK: It’s great, you see yourself grow too.

HT: You do so many different things, it’s funny. Like, in the same day you can be spending a good chunk of your day doing logistic office shit, then you can be hanging out with somebody and having lunch and just having a lot of fun, and then could be having a really intense personal conversation with another resident, then you could be on-call doing that part of it, then you can be on-call planning some courtyard party, and then you might have to respond to trauma.

AB: And then you have to go back to your room and have some time out.

HT: It’s all over the place.

AB: And then go cry to your fellow RA.

MK: We’re like basically Power Rangers.

AB: We could call ourselves that.

MK: The Power Rangers!

AB: The Hot Power Rangers. Third generation power rangers.

TMW: Here’s one that’s not really about RAing, but more about you guys. If you try to think back to your first semester at college, think about yourself then, what advice would senior you give first year you?

AH: Chill the f*** out.

AB: Ooof!

AH: I was such a bottle of stress first semester, I mean granted I had a lot of family things going on and different things going on in my private life, but I was so stressed and I feel like even though that might have pushed me into where I am today, I don’t know I just wish I knew then what I do now.

AB: I wish I had been more open-minded or had explored more, academically speaking. I came in being like, “Oh I want to be a doctor, I need to take bio, I need to take chemistry, I need to take this and that.” My FYC was bio; I have not taken a bio class after. I think I had literally limited myself and my vision was very narrow and I stumbled a lot into things. So I stumbled into psychology, but I wish I had been more open minded and had explored some more things and that way I would have been more confident about my path after.

MK: I don’t know. This is really hard because I’ve been thinking about this, so I have a lot of things I wish I had done differently.

HT: Get your septum pierced sooner.

MK: Yeah, get my septum pierced sooner, put that down. But also just, I was such a baby when I think about that time. Because, yeah, I’m on the same floor that I lived on freshman year. Yeah I was such a baby and I feel like I never really tried new things or wanted to meet new people because I sort of just formed this one group. Like, these are going to be my friends for the rest of my life. But then I was like, “Oh but there are so many other cool people.” Like Agnes, I came in wanting to be a doctor, and that was the only thing I was going to do here, but then I didn’t really like—

AB: Look where we are!

MK: I know. I’m an English major. I love it. I think just be more involved on campus because I definitely did not do that at all my first year. I guess I would say that, and like be nice to people, not that I wasn’t, but I was just more closed off.

HT: What I would tell myself is to sleep. I pulled multiple all nighters, I only slept like two hours most nights. I also was on concussion stimulants, so I didn’t have a problem not sleeping because…drugs.

MK: #Drugs. Don’t do them! #Dontdothem

TMW: So, the point of senior spotlight, you guys have all read the back page—

MK: No. [Laughter] I’m just kidding. This was my dream.

TMW: Is that it reads like a transcript.

AH: You should take out most of the F-bombs, and leave some, but asterisk.

MK: Leave all the F-bombs that I said in there.

HT: Can I hear what your other questions were?

TMW: Uh, they were mostly just silly ones. Like, you guys must be good at bed-lofting by this point, is it true?

AH: Nope, never lofted a bed.

HT: Never done it.

TMW: Really?

MK: We refuse to do that shit.

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    Keith BallSep 6, 2019 at 9:48 am

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