My alarm went off at 5:30 am today…I am not now, nor have I ever been, a “morning person”. When I was a child my mother used to start the day by singing to me, “Good morning to you, good morning to you.” I hated it, because all I wanted to do at that moment was go back to sleep. I still have that same feeling many mornings when the alarm goes off. Unfortunately, I can’t pull the blankets back over my head and go back to sleep. But this morning it was different. When the alarm went off I dutifully got up and headed for the kitchen.
Last fall I moved into the MIT Alpha Phi sorority house with 60 MIT undergraduate woman as the Residential Advisor (RA). When I was an undergrad, sororities were just beginning to find their place at MIT so there were no women living in sorority houses although there were women living in one of several independent living groups. I lived in Baker House, often referred to in those days as the largest fraternity on campus, but without the ties of sisterhood that bind the women I now live with on our campus. According to the job description,
RAs serve as mentors, role models, guides, and resources for the students who live in the 36 fraternities, sororities and independent living groups
and play a similar role to that of the Graduate Residence Tutor (GRT) in the dormitories. We’re there to offer advice, make sure there is soda in the pop machine and occasionally figure out why the toilet is overflowing. I’ve done all of those things this year, and more, and have loved every minute of it.
I’ve really had a good time living in the house this year. I have dinner whenever possible with the residents of the house enjoying the chance to hear about their classes, what professors they like the best, and which exams were the hardest as well as the last movie they saw. I ride the shuttle bus with them in the morning and Saferide at night but I like it best when the “girls” wave at me in the “infinite corridor” or in the Student Center. I look forward each evening to when I get to take a break and go down to the tv room and watch Gossip Girl, Gray’s Anatomy, or an old episode of Friends enjoying the chance to spend a few minutes of downtime enjoying a snack (raw cookie dough from the freezer is my favorite). Everyone in the house has truly made me feel like a part of the family this year! But what impresses me the most is the way the girls work together. Responsibility for the house is shared by all and everyone is expected to do their part. A typical Saturday may require doing a bit of housework before settling in for a day of studying but will generally end with a group going out to get some dinner and then going to a movie or campus party. The fact that the girls live, study, play and eat together helps them to create bonds that will last a lifetime.
So that now brings me back to why I got up so early today. “Study breaks” are also a part of my “job” and mine tend to be more of the breakfast variety. Each semester during finals week I get up extra early for two mornings and make sure that there is a hot breakfast ready before the residents of the house go off to an exam or back to their studies. I love breakfast myself, and like it even better when someone else makes it. Plus, my mother always told me I needed a good breakfast to start the day. I guess this is my way of carrying on that tradition.
A colleague asked me the other day how I liked living in the house and I responded very quickly that it had surpassed all my expectations. Will I be returning for another year, you might ask. In truth, I wouldn’t miss it for the world! And yes, I’ll be making breakfast during finals week…