Being an HA this year has probably been the definitive experience of my senior year. Having spent my entire junior year in France, I was delighted to come back in the context of HA training. It made me throw myself into Bryn Mawr again 100% from the very first moment, and I quickly found myself making amazing new friendships. It also encouraged me to refect on who I am, what I wanted for the year, and how I interact with people, all of which formed a solid foundation for my year. I felt myself surrounded by an HA community of caring, engaged women who were investing themselves in an important way in the college community as a whole.
I found being an HA to be one of the most Bryn Mawr-enhancing things I have done. My hall became like a family to me, and I felt essentially involved in its dynamics to an extent that I have never felt before. Most of all, being an HA made me try to live up to my idea of how I always wanted to live: taking the time to get to know people and truly care about each individual; creating opportunities for the hall to come together, relax and bond; and just tending to the community like a garden, making sure that it was healthy and supported and peaceful. We also had a ridiculous amount of zany, wacky fun.
There definitely were times, however, when I was exhausted by the emotional drain of trying to be there for so many people, especially when they were struggling with very major issues in their lives. My only difficulty in being an HA was trying to figure out how to balance the needs of others and my own personal needs. But figuring out the boudaries that I need to respect for myself and the wide variety of ways in which I could support someone (which often meant finding them someone else who could pick up where I left off) was a profoundly important life lesson.
I offer as suggestions some of the things that I found helpful in my experience:
*Work as a real team with your Customs People and other HAs. You will always know different pieces of the puzzle and have different perspectives, so collaborating is immensely valuable. You also can support each other in critical ways.
*Reach out to every person on the hall (including upperclassmen, who may be a bit less involved since they have their own lives off the hall) at the beginning of the year and try to make them all feel included. Holding a tea the first week is great for introducing people and developing a sense of hall community.
*Treat the frosh as peers rather than kids as much as possible. On my hall, they ended up becoming dear friends of mine, and they often supported me at times when I most needed it. They also really appreciated the sense of respect that it gave them.
*Have a tea at least once a month, just for the sake of hall cohesiveness and fun. It helps the hall keep in touch, and it allows you to bring up any issues that need to be addressed, too. Sometimes inspired theme teas can be fun (the French tea, the all-circular food tea, the animal tea, and the American colors tea for the elections were popular), but even just cookies from the bookstore is a welcome diversion. Teas were always greatly appreciated.
*Respect your limits and needs. When I learned how to be honest about my inability to function late at night and my need for personal or work time sometimes, I was much better able to support people without overextending myself and resenting their needs. Sometimes, it was really important to just close my door. By learning how to balance our own lives, we help model it for others, as well