MAC SPEAKS: What do you want from your community? | Errol Phalo ’17

TMW: What were your expectations of Macalester before you arrived on campus?

EP: I was expecting Macalester to be my high school on a smaller scale, because I went to a really big high school. Here I really liked the idea of international students being a big part of the student body. I was expecting a big international feel here, like I wasn’t just in an American college—I was somewhere that felt very international and connected with the world.

Did your perception of that community change once you arrived here on campus?

Yes, it did. I really did feel like I was part of a big international community, but I also realized that I wasn’t in contact with a lot of international students like I thought I would be. I noticed that there’s a difference between being there in the community and knowing that an international student exists, and actually being friends with that person, talking to them and getting to know them. My relationship with them and my role as a global citizen are a lot different than what I thought they would be. I felt like an outsider looking in a lot of the time. Just like, “Oh, I’m here in this international place, but am I really contributing to it?” I felt like I was just kind of observing my first year.

Did that change this year?

Yes, I would say that it changed. I wasn’t thinking of doing International Studies my first year. I just wanted to do Japanese. But then I met some other Japanese majors that were like, “Well, it’s really good to pair up a foreign language with another skill or another major.” This year I took Intro to International Human Rights. There were several international students in that class, and I got to hear about their experiences and their opinions on international law. I really felt like this was the Mac that I wanted to be a part of.

What do you like most about Macalester community?

I like how, in the Twin Cities, you can’t go too far without meeting another Mac person, especially if you volunteer somewhere off-campus. It could be anywhere, honestly. I’ve run into Mac people at Cycles for Change—a place you can volunteer down University [Avenue] and build bikes. There are several Mac people that work there. There are Mac people at Planned Parenthood. I really like how Mac seems really small, but it’s actually a really big, connected place. It’s connected in more ways than you’d think.

What do you hope for or expect going forward in the Macalester community?

I’m hoping to build better relationships with the people I work with—my work-study and the community I live in (I stay in the C-House). I also want to feel more comfortable with being myself here. Not that I don’t feel comfortable, but I notice a lot that you’re going to be different from people—your background, your ideas—but it’s better to not let that difference stop you from feeling like you’re a part of the community. I wouldn’t let my past or my ideas stop me from building relationships with people who are different from me. I think it’s good to embrace that difference.

Do you think there’s anything Macalester can do to make sure that students of different backgrounds are able to get to know each other and build relationships?

One, they should definitely emphasize the Department of Multicultural Life [DML]. I found out about it the end of my first year, and I was like “Where has this been?” There’s some responsibility on the students’ part to know what’s going on. I wish that the college would—not necessarily focus—but I feel like the DML itself is a small but very significant part of Mac. The office is in Kagin. I just feel like they don’t get their own spotlight, or maybe the students aren’t looking for it. I definitely didn’t hear about the DML during orientation, so they should probably mention everything they can about places where you can reach out and talk to people.

What do you want Macalester to look like in 10 years?

I would definitely want more all-gender bathrooms. I really like that idea. It confused me at first. I was like, “Wait, can I just walk in here?” Sometimes I step out and I’m like “Is this a men’s or a women’s?” and it’s all-gender. It doesn’t matter! I wish there could be more allotted towards the departments that have had a big impact on me, like the Asian languages department. The DML expanding would be great. That’s what I see in 10 years: more people involved in some of the smaller departments.