Exposed: the secret lives of Junior Advisors

They’re older students, they live with you, but they cannot boss you around. And they do not get paid. So exactly what is the incentive to become a Junior Advisor?

Jonathan Pak ’99, a JA in Sage F, reflected, “I became a JA to make 20 instant new friends and that’s what it has been. I still eat almost every meal with my entry.” Leticia Smith ’99, a JA in East 3, echoed his sentiments: “I wanted to give of myself.”

The decision to become a JA was not easy for everyone. During junior year, many people have to decide whether to leave the Purple Valley to go abroad or become a JA. Dede Orraca-Tetteh ’99, a JA in Lehman, remarked, “My time here at Williams is so limited. I decided I could go abroad after college so I can take advantage of what is offered here. But if I was going to be on campus for my entire junior year, I wanted to be a JA.”

The life of a JA is not always easy. Sylvia Englund ’99 from East 1 never got quite enough sleep and never quite got her work done. “I’d get home at 10:30 p.m. and say I was going to get some work done and go to bed early, but instead I’d end up chatting.” She wasn’t complaining, because being a good JA means hanging with great, interesting people.” This seems to be a common joy for JAs. Orraca-Tetteh says that some of the greatest times in her entry were “when everyone is just hanging around in the common room talking, acting crazy, and laughing – even if they’re laughing at me.”

Entry bonding is not limited to the campus. A number of JAs took their entries out to dinner, the movies, or bowling. Some even shot at their freshmen on the paintball course. Pak commented, “It was a great way for everyone to take out their aggression. It seemed like my entry attacked me and tried to get me out every time. I think they may have planned something behind my back.” Pak is also looking into planning a skydiving excursion.

Many JAs didn’t feel that they had any significant low points during their tenure, and even the potentially bad points were fun. Both Orraca-Tetteh and Pak mentioned the lice epidemic. “We spent one night,” recounts Orraca-Tetteh, “standing around watching Friends and Seinfeld because no one wanted to sit down on the furniture in the common room. It was like Outbreak around here and was actually pretty funny.” Pak said the first night of the lice epidemic was an entry bonding experience. The entry members helped those with lice do their laundry.

This ability to turn anything into a good time is also something that Orraca-Tetteh advises future JAs to do. “You just have to handle what comes. Be prepared to leave your door open all the time and have you room filled with people.” Pak commented, “It’s such a uniquely Williams experience. Our roles are simply to give advice and support, provide a friendly, almost familial environment to come home to, and to help out with the social scene. It’s such a wonderful, intuitive system that I only wonder why other schools haven’t caught on.”

Englund comments that some parents and even some first-years think that JAs are there to watch their entry, but she believes “it’s more like being a big sister. I’ve never been a big sister to anyone because I’m the youngest of four, and I really like that role.” Smith also adds, “You have to make sure you to cherish the diversity present in your entry, cherish it in every sense of the word. Each member is truly unique – you must draw out the positive in everyone and at the same time let each person stand on their own.”

As the year winds to a close, the JAs have few regrets. Some JAs wished they could have spent more time with their entries. Orraca-Tetteh reflects, “I always tried to be there for them, if not physically around them then mentally. But I wasn’t there 100% and I hope that I haven’t been letting my entry down.” Englund commented, “You sometimes forget that this is all new to them and they have so many people to meet and things to discover. It’s such a fresh perspective.” Most agree with Pak, who summed up the experience by saying, “It’s been one of the best things in my life. It’s a great time.”

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