JA Confidential #5: “I try to just shake it off”

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 sitting down with us. You’ve been a JA for about half the year now, so I’d think that you have some concept of what qualifies as a “good” JA, what is your definition and how do you think you hold up?

Junior Advisor: I think one of the most important things a JA can do is to take an interest in each and every one of your frosh.  I think that by doing this you are able to foster a connection with each of them and make them feel like they have at least one person at this school that cares about them. You aren’t going to be best friends with all them, and you are going to be closer to some than others, but taking an interest in all of them and finding at least one thing about them that you can relate too is important.  It helps you to have relationships with all of them and also helps build a good entry dynamic.

WA: And have you done that? Or, rather, to what extent have you done that?

JA: I’ve tried to. When first days was going on, I felt as if I would always be around my frosh and that the entry would always be this inseparable unit, but once school started, that wasn’t the reality.  I have classes, they have classes, I have friends, they made friends, etc.  It can be hard because I don’t see some of my frosh as often as I would hope that I would and therefore I can’t check in all the time, but I’ve been trying as best I can.

WA: Do you think it’s a JA’s responsibility to be around the entry as much as possible, or are they “allowed” to spend potentially small amounts of time there?

JA: That is a great question and something I’ve definitely struggled with this year.  I feel guilty when I’m not in my entry common room every second of the day, but over the course of the semester I’ve come to the realization that being in the entry 24/7 is completely unrealistic.  The saying “JAs are people too” is real.  We take classes and we have friends and it would be impossible and unfair for us to have to put all of those things completely on the back burner.  That being said, taking on the JA role, you are expected to spend time with the entry and be there for them when they need you.  I think it is all about finding a balance.  Being in the entry as much as possible wouldn’t be healthy, but never being around would be unfair to your frosh.  I try to get a few meals with my frosh every week and I like to hang out in the common room for a little bit every day.  I think it is very personal and all JAs find a balance that is right for themselves and their entry

WA: How well do you think frosh understand that?

JA: I think that some understand it better than others. Sometimes I’ll get a comment like, “I haven’t seen you all week,” or they’ll ask why you were having dinner with someone besides the entry.  Its frustrating when they say things like this because it makes me feel as if I’m not doing enough for them or am not around as much as they want me to be.  I try to just shake it off and see it as them just loving to spend time with me.

WA: One JA friend mentioned to me that one of the most frustrating elements of being a JA is that frosh would make comments like the ones you brought up without realizing how the JA might feel about those sorts of remarks. Would you elaborate on that and share your experiences related to that. If that makes any sense.

JA: It is really frustrating. The smallest comments that aren’t even supposed to be malicious can be hurtful.  JAs put so much time and energy into the entries and when frosh say these hurtful things it is demoralizing.  I try to just shake it off and ignore it and remind myself that they really aren’t trying to be mean and don’t really understand how hard it is to balance being a JA with everything else.  I think the one thing that frustrates me most is when frosh don’t come to snacks.  They say things like, “I have too much work.”  I always want to remind them that they are freshmen taking 100 level classes and me and my co are juniors with a much more demanding course load, yet we always make time for snacks.  After putting so much effort into the entry, it’s so annoying when they don’t give you just one hour of the week.

WA: Just to poke holes, it’s not like the freshmen have a choice in whether or not to be in an entry, so why should the HAVE to attend snacks, for example, but also other types of entry activities that they never really agreed to participate in in the same way you did?

JA: Fair question. They don’t HAVE to attend snacks because you are right, they didn’t choose to be part of the system.  But, I have good relationships with all of my frosh, and so does my co, so I think out of respect for us they could try their best to make an appearance.

WA: Speaking of your co, do you have a messages you’d like us to send along?

JA: My co is one of the greatest parts of being a JA.  It would be impossible to have done this  without such a great person by my side.

WA: Great will do. Thanks for sitting down with us.

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