Life as an RA During a Pandemic: An Interview With Eile McGinn ‘22

Bridget Flaherty ’21

Features Editor

This week, I interviewed my friend and Resident Advisor Eile McGinn about life as an RA during a remote semester. Eile is currently working as an RA on campus and she sheds light on this unique and novel situation and offers advice to remote students looking for ways to connect:

What is it like being an RA right now?

Being an RA right now is strange. The usual gig allows you to build community in the hall and building throughout the year, so it’s weird that we only have one semester and then everything gets reset. It makes things more difficult in terms of engagement and such, which is my favorite aspect of the job.

What is it like living on campus right now?

At first, campus felt like some post-apocalyptic reality where only a few lone survivors roamed the streets. I’m happy to say that things have gotten a bit less spooky! It’s still a stark contrast to last year. I think back to when I did my duty rounds for Lehy and would see a number of faces. This year, I’ve had rounds that have felt like the pilot of The Twilight Zone where everyone has disappeared. But the weirdness doesn’t outweigh the silver linings! I’ve had really meaningful conversations with students and staff alike that I’m not sure I would in non-pandemic times. For example, most mornings I get to see Fran and Laurie, two women who work in the Kimball Bakery who I met when I was their student worker my freshman year. I wouldn’t get to see them normally, but because the pandemic has moved things around, they’re working upstairs in Kimball Main so I’m able to catch up with them now and then! 

What adjustments have you had to make due to COVID restrictions and the remote environment?

ResLife has done a good job making sure we’re keeping safe and socially distanced while still connecting to residents. It’s taken a lot of brainstorming and collaboration between RAs to find new ways to engage with residents in a safe way. One program I ran with fellow Williams staff member Christina Choquette was a night where we invited residents to join us to play Among Us! People really enjoyed it and it was a different and fun way to build community. 

Graphic by Kate Nedorostek ‘23. Photo Courtesy of Davey Sullivan ’22.

What has been your favorite new activity?

Not sure if it’s necessarily a new “activity”, but I’ve definitely found a new appreciation for a quiet Kimball. That’s not something you usually get to experience! But I’ve had a few times where I’m the only one dining in there when I’ve been able to really soak in and appreciate the Holy Cross environment, considering how it’s become a privilege to even be here this semester.

What do you miss the most about being an RA on a full/non-remote campus?

I miss just seeing people! There are some residents who I’ve never gotten to see in person, and if I’ve seen them in person it’s usually with a mask on. I used to be able to just bribe residents to come and chat by offering some type of food, but that’s not an option right now. I like to offer myself as a resource to any resident who may need me, and it’s just been harder to make myself visible and to build those connections.

How can students feel more connected to campus and residence hall communities in this remote environment?

I highly recommend following the various Residence Life Instagram accounts! I know the Remote RA team, led by Chris Herndon, has been doing really fantastic things to connect with remote students. We’re doing our best as on-campus RAs to stay connected with remote residents too, hence programs like playing Among Us. Even if a resident is remote and wants to follow the Williams Instagram account, they can check who’s on duty every night and maybe pop into the duty Zoom to say hi, or have fun by engaging with the various Instagram stories we put up. If you have specific ideas for connection that you haven’t seen from ResLife yet, don’t be too shy to suggest it! We’ve had to almost rewrite the RA rule book by scratch, so a lot of our ideas for virtual connection have been results of collective brainstorming.

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