Editors Note: Although everybody has a Junior Advisor as a freshman at Williams, very few people actually know what it is like to be one. To that end, the Williams Alternative presents “JA Confidential”–a series of off-the-record conversations with current JAs about life at Williams as a Junior Advisor.
Williams Alternative: Thanks for taking a moment to meet with us. You’ve been a JA for about two months now, in what ways does it meet, or not meet, your expectations?
Junior Advisor: I think I really did my best to come into this year without expectations. I think there is so much you can’t control about being a JA that coming in with any sort of expectations can really be detrimental to your experience. That being said, of course I had hopes about what these past few months would be like, its only human. And my experience so far has really lived up to those hopes and so much more.
WA: Those hopes being?
JA: Mainly that I would have a group of frosh that actually enjoyed being together in the entry. I feel like so much of the entry dynamic really depends on the collection of freshman in that entry, and there is only so much you can do as a JA if they don’t get along or enjoy each other.
WA: How much control do you think JAs have over creating a situation that lends itself to the freshmen getting along? Or is it almost entirely dependent on the freshmen themselves, which is essentially random?
JA: I think JAs definitely play a role in facilitating a space where everyone feels comfortable and safe, and that’s a huge part of everyone getting along. We also can do our best to get everyone together for events or activities or just to hang out, but really if a freshman doesn’t get along with the entry or doesn’t want to participate, we have no control over that, so I guess its kind of half and half.
WA: Have you had any issues with freshmen not participating?
JA: No, not really. Everyone contributes to the entry in their own way. I also don’t think it’s an awful thing not to have frosh participate in the entry. It’s a great support system to have if you want to enjoy it, but if you have found friends outside the entry that you enjoy more that’s awesome. I think people fall into this pattern of making frosh feel guilty for not spending time with their entry, but just because you don’t hang out with your entry doesn’t mean you’re not thriving socially at Williams.
WA: No, of course not. I guess I’m just wondering how you feel when your frosh don’t participate in entry events, at snacks say, because there were times as a freshman when I didn’t participate in entry events and I never really considered how my JAs felt about that, about me or others. Which thinking about it now wasn’t very considerate of me and too bad that I’ve revealed in print.
JA: I mean I think the bottom line is we get it. Sometimes your TA session is during snacks, or you’re just really busy. Or sometimes you just don’t want to go. I try not take participation too personally but yeah I mean it sucks if you and your co put work into an activity and are really excited about it, and none of your frosh show up. I also just genuinely enjoy seeing my freshman so when they don’t want to hang out with me I get a little sad.
WA: I guess the cruel irony of this situation, then, is that I’m sure your frosh would love to know that, but, of course, this is anonymous. So I’m glad I could help with that.
JA: Yeah that’s brutal. Bummer.
WA: Anyway, joking aside, getting back to the original question, has this experience diverged from your expectations at all? Not necessarily in negative ways, but in any manner?
JA: I definitely didn’t expect it to be this much fun. We get so much training about the worst-case scenarios and what can go wrong that I guess I forgot that the day-to-day reality would actually be enjoyable. I also didn’t expect to like all of my frosh. I figured there would be that one, you know, that just annoyed the crap out of me.
WA: Yeah I probably wouldn’t have believed you if you had said you weren’t expecting that. Though part of me is skeptical that there seems to be so much merriment, glad as I am to hear that that’s the case.
JA: I mean there are parts of it that are hard, but the good definitely overpowers the bad.
WA: What have been the hardest parts so far?
JA: My co and I really haven’t had to deal with any real emergencies with our frosh so for me it’s definitely been how isolating it can be at times. You’re in this weird position where you’re spending all this time with people that don’t really see you as their peer just yet, and it can be hard to have real and honest relationships within that dynamic. I also just live so far away from my friends this year, and that can be hard.
WA: Do you think those are things you can work to improve, or might improve on their own, or do you think you’ll just have to accept them?
JA: I think they will definitely improve. I’ve already seen it improving.
WA: I guess this is a situation that just takes a fair amount of adjusting to.
WA: Before we part, do you have any message for your co? Though remember, again, that your co won’t know it’s from you or for her/him.
JA: You’re killing it. I couldn’t imagine doing this without you.
WA: Great, I’ll pass that along. Thanks for talking with us.