200 Days in the Life of the College

Saturday, December 18

If an RA walks down an empty hall, does she make a sound?

By Alexandra Orlov ’13

At the end of the hall in Bundy West, garbage cans teem with discarded junk. Chemistry flash cards, calculus equation sheets and anthropology term paper drafts stuff the recycling bin. Just days ago, over-caffeinated zombies staggered through the dorm at odd hours, commiserating, trekking to and from Burke Library. My nose scrunches at the stench of stale pizza and Mexican food. Last night students celebrated the end of a stressful Finals Week, but this morning reveals a desolate dorm — devoid of humanity, except for me, an RA.

Today is the first day of winter break and nearly all have left Hamilton, departing by car, bus, train or plane. Only resident advisors remain, on campus to make sure everything’s in order for the month-long vacation. Apart from supervising positive living environments and enforcing College policies, Hamilton RAs are peer mentors who organize social and educational events for residents. As a sophomore RA in an all-sophomore dorm, I play the unique role of classmate, friend and authority figure — a balancing act that demands mutual respect.

Throughout this semester, strangers who once mumbled hello while brushing teeth in the communal bathroom have become friends whose laughter can be heard (for better or worse) five doors down the hall. Now my steps echo along the empty corridor as I check and close up each room. Pictures and posters, movie stars, family, friends and pro athletes eye me as I make my rounds. Where is everyone? Right in front of me — in the faces on the walls and shelves. So, while I’m eager for break, in this moment, I already long for the comforting bustle of my residents, my friends, my dorm.