Posts by Emily Moss

Lessons Learned on the (Unpaid) Job

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Today is the last day of my spring internship. If you haven't been paying attention, I've been spending my Mondays and Wednesdays downtown at a literary agency on Michigan. In addition to normal intern-y duties like stapling, filing and envelope-licking, I've written a dozen "reader reports" on potential manuscripts and screened literally thousands of query letters from people who think they are the next Elizabeth Gilbert/Stephanie Meyer/J.K. Rowling/Dave Eggers/Stephen King. Newsflash: They're not.

At the University of Chicago, where we devote hour upon hour to traditional book-learning, I think there's something to be said for hands-on practical experience. At this internship, I have read none of the Great Thinkers, analyzed zero philosophical texts and written exactly no theses. I did, however, learn how to identify a promising manuscript within a few sentences. I also learned how to distill 50,000 words into an a clear, concise two-page report. I learned how to keep my ears open around the office; I now know all about royalty reports, advance payments, ARCs, no-money-dues, Publisher's Weekly, audiobooks, foreign rights, blurbs, platforms and web promotion. I can tell you the difference between a noir thriller and a hardboiled detective novel. I can tell you how long a traditional romance should be, and on what page the characters should first meet, kiss and get it on.

Spending 16 unpaid hours each week outside of Hyde Park has been hard on my schedule, school work and social life. I get up early, I get home late. And it's jarring, this bounce between the "real world" (wearing high heels, doing crossword puzzles on the bus, nodding at other commuters) and school-world, but it's totally worth it. Many of you will arrive here, or wherever you go, with no f***ing clue where your life is going, and that's totally cool. Internships, volunteer experiences and work experience is how you figure out a path. Try something, pick up some skills, try something else, pick up new skills. The moment will come when you'll find yourself with a halfway decent resume, a truckload of marketable skills and some sense of things you may or may not want to pursue.

When I was home two weeks ago, I was talking to my dad about his career path. He's a clinical psychologist who specializes in the overlap of substance abuse and mental health. At 25, he was still bumming around Mexico in a $60 truck with a dog named "puppy," hair down to shoulders and questionable sobriety. When he reentered the "real world," in Massachusetts, his buddy set him up with a job as an orderly in a hospital. He filled out the application, only to be told to return the following day with his resume. He walked out of the office, turned to his friend and said, "So what's a resume?" Somehow, between that moment and today, he managed to go to college, get a PhD, establish a practice and settle into suburban parenthood. The point is, for most of us, the path from here to wherever we end up is not obvious. Internships, even time-sucking, unpaid ones, are steps on the way.

It's a Small World, After All

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My 17-year-old brother is looking at colleges and in the midst of his search I find myself flashing back on that horrible, chaotic, anxiety-inducing period, and not fondly. It should have been an exciting time, full of possibilities and potential. I was choosing a new direction, choosing a new city! Instead, I felt overwhelmed and under pressure from every direction imaginable.

To ease the stress, I focused on one narrow aspect of the college search: size. I had a whole Goldilocks complex, not too big, not too small.... got to be just right. There are a lot of excellent universities and colleges out there, but how many fit my narrow population parameters? I went to a public high school of 2,000 students, and by the time I graduated I felt like I knew everybody's business, and they knew mine. I'd literally run out of new people. With that social claustrophobia in mind, I ruled out the series of tiny liberal arts schools with smaller student bodies than my high school. At the same time, massive universities weren't my style either; I didn't want to have to fight my way through 500 seat lecture halls to catch the professor's eye.

Looking back, I'm happy with my choice. Of all the things I like about the UofC, size is one of the easiest to define. It is big enough that I feel like I meet new people literally every day, and yet small enough that I never walk across the quad without seeing a friendly, familiar face. Just right.

I'm almost done with my third year now, and I'm finding I recognize more and more faces. It's not so much that my social circle has expanded drastically, rather that I add one or two people to my life, and each of them comes with a crew. All of a sudden, names and faces start to ring bells and I find myself frequently saying, "Oh yeah, I know her through X" or "Sure, I met him at Y."

Sunday night, I was grocery shopping and bumped into an acquaintance from Arabic... two years ago. Although I quit after four quarters of lots of pain with little gain (my fault, not the prof's... she was amazing), he stuck around and is absolutely brilliant. We chatted and it turns out that his roommate went to my high school. And he works at the Center for Research Libraries with my roommate, Kelsey. And his ex-girlfriend is my employee at the Telefund. And he's in Doc Films with my friend from Creative Writing class. And we live 20 minutes apart in Massachusetts. Wow. One mini collision in the cereal aisle and you can see how the social webs we weave get pretty tangled pretty fast.

The next night, Sydney and I crashed guys' night at the pub (21+ so don't get any ideas). Sitting at our table was a girl who had been in my Hum class three years ago. Turns out she's going to India on the same program as my friend Walter. Turns out she works in the hospital with another friend. Turns out we live half a block from each other.

Small world, eh? But I like it like that.

Splitting Time

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This quarter I'm attempting something new. I'm spending half my week far from campus, away from classes, professors and discussions sections. For the rest of the quarter, every Monday and Wednesday I'll take the 6 downtown, get off at Congress and Michigan and pass my day working at a Chicago literary agency. This whole nine-to-five, sling-back-wearing, commuting thing is new to me; it's very grown-up and scary. Tuesdays and Thursdays I go back to being a student, in class from nine to three . All the switching is starting to make me dizzy.

Landing this internship was a strange confluence of luck, scheduling skillz and my frequent urge to talk to strangers. Back in the fall, Amy and I (and everyone else we know) attended a career planning fair for second- and third- year students. Taking the Next Step, as the annual event is called, was held at the Marriott downtown. The hotel lobby was swarmed with UofC kids in their best western business attire. The Career Advising and Planning Service (CAPS) had recruited over a hundred alumni from dozens of different fields to speak to us and discuss their career paths in industry-specific panels. Each student got to select two panels and roundtable discussion to attend, based on their particular interests. I sat in on the careers in law panel (Nope! Not doing that!) and the publishing/journalism panel (hm... maybe a better fit.) One of the people on the second panel was a recent grad who now works as a literary agent, representing all kinds of authors when they go seeking contracts with publishing houses. After the panel, being my not-shy self, I approached her to ask some questions because her work sounded fascinating. She told me about some of her authors (everything from an Amish romance novelist to sports writers to self-help gurus) and talked about ways that the publishing world is changing.

Back home, I e-mailed her, thanked her for speaking with me, and asked if they had an internship program. Several e-mails later, I set up an interview. Long story short, they decided to let me stick around for the quarter. I started last week on Monday and was promptly thrown into reading query letters from potential authors looking for representation. My job was to weed out the crap (95%) and forward the halfway decent ones to the agents. My first day, I read about 100 letters and forwarded 8. Of the 8, I would only actually want to read 2 of the proposed books, but I felt like 2 was an indication that I was being too picky.

My second day, I read some more query letters, but I also got to read my first manuscript and write a reader report. It was a historical romance set in ancient China starring a broad-chested, hunky mercenary and an innocent, sword-wielding princess. To my surprise, I enjoyed it.

My crazy schedule is not unheard of; I've had friends who split time downtown working at the mayor's office or volunteering with the alderman. Last fall, I knew a handful of people who took classes part time in order to work in Obama's campaign office. If it's an experience you really want, classes are flexible and it's worth the crazy-making schedule in order to test the waters... you know, before you "take the next step."

Oh, the People You Will Meet

I had to go get my license renewed today. My license photo is historically bad (add 20 pounds, pigtails, un-tweezed eyebrows and braces.... 16 was not my best year), so I welcomed the opportunity to revise the record. Sitting on the hard wooden benches in the RMV in Lowell, MA, my dad looked around and said, "This, the RMV, is a cross-section of humanity." Taking a look at the other bench-waiters, I realized my dad was right. Everyone has to pass through the RMV for certain things. It's just one of those unavoidable elements of life.

I may have mentioned earlier that I work as the supervisor at the call center (the Telefund, for those in the know) on campus. I've worked there for two-and-a-half years, and it is my second home at the UofC. Tele-fundraising is not for everyone, obviously, but it was/is a great job for me. One of the things I love about are the crazy people you meet along the way, current students and alumni both. We've called some incredible people, everyone from Kurt Vonnegut (right before he passed away) to Jeremiah Wright, Carol Mosely Braun to the Obamas (who politely requested to be removed from the calling list....). Back in my caller days, I was also lucky enough to call people with awesome names like Chiquita Flowers, Dick Dong Wang (I'm NOT kidding) and Mrs. Irma Getzoff. One of the many, many skills I've learned at the Telefund is how to not lose my sh** in the face of ridiculous names.

And then there are the callers, my dear, beloved callers. Telefund has a rather high turnover rate, because, ahem, like I said, Tele-fundraising is not for everyone. But the folks that stick around are wonderful. We work in the basement of the Alumni House, and part of my job is making sure the callers are happy. We play games (which usually entertain me more than the callers, but hey, I need entertaining too!) We have contests and competitions and try our best to make a challenging job at least a little bit fun. Our newest invention is the TeleProps board, on which we congratulate callers for non-work related accomplishments, running a marathon, starting a new club, or publishing an article in the Maroon.

One unintended consequence of the TeleProps board is that all of sudden we are learning things we never knew about each other. I have known some of these kids for years, and man oh man, I feel like we just met. One of the most interesting stories to come out of the TeleProps board has been Irene's. On Wednesday night, she captivated half the room when she started telling stories about growing up in Malaysia. Apparently, the government is paying for her education (cool!) but, she has an 11-year contract with the Malay Central Bank upon graduation (11-years!) If she doesn't fulfill her contract, she owes them her entire tuition (over 200K) plus interest. Whoa. Here is this quiet girl who sits in the same seat every night, doesn't really talk to many people and has this incredible story. Who knew?

We were all so entranced by her stories that the shift started a few minutes late. Oops! But you know what? As my supervisory privilege, I decided that spending a few minutes to get to know the people who sit next to you shift after shift is worth ten minutes of calling time. Isn't that what "alumni relations" is all about?

The F Word

We're rather found of t-shirt slogans here, and I dare say we have some of the best. There's the insulting, but classic "Where the squirrels are more attractive than the girls and more aggressive than the guys." There are the academic ones, that play on our sense of intellectualism, like "the circle of hell that dante forgot." There's the one that sums up all the rest: "The University of Chicago: Wearing Self-Deprecating T-shirts Since 1892."

And then, there's the one. You know which one I mean. It's the one that everyone talks about on tours, the one that people laugh at nervously because they can't decide if it's a joke.

The University of Chicago: Where Fun Comes to Die

Is it true? Not a chance. Do people work really hard here? Damn staight. Do they study a lot? You bet. Is it rigorous and intellectual and high-brow all the freaking time? No. We are college students! We are surrounded by thousands of other kids our age in one of the greatest cities of the world. Let me put it like this, if you go out of your way to avoid fun at all costs, you might (MIGHT) be able to pull it off. But it would be a challenge.

When the weekend rolls around, the issue is always which of the many possible things to do are you actually going to choose? On campus there will always be a UT (University Theater) play, an a capella show, an improv show or a sports game that you should probably be attending because you told your friend is in X group or on Y team that you would go. Your house has probably planned something, as low-key as a Sandra Bullock-Keanu Reeves movie night or as elaborate as a trip to a karaoke bar in Chinatown. There will be parties, for sure, and it will be entirely up to you to what extent you feel like partaking. There will be a frat party if you want to try that angle. Here's my tip, don't wear your nice shoes. Your upperclassmen friends will probably be having parties in their apartments. And oh wait, there's one other thing: Chicago! It may be f-ing freezing outside right now, but that's no excuse. Add some layers, don't forget a hat and go downtown!

Now me, I'm not much on the huge parties. I'm not a big drinker, I don't like loud music and I prefer to wear my nice shoes. So what does a weekend look like for someone like me?

Friday Afternoon: I met up with Sydney on the 6 bus and we headed downtown. We decided to skip the AMC in favor of a little adventure, so she picked the Landmark Cinema and we took the brown line up to Diversey. Before we found the theater, we spent 20 minutes in a Walgreen's arguing over appropriate movie candy 1000 calories. We settled on a box of Reeses' Pieces and Twizzlers. We had tried to see Slumdog Millionaire two weeks ago but it was sold out. We had better luck this time and it was AMAZING.

Friday Night: After the movie, we walked across the street to a creperie called..... La Creperie. Sydney's choice because she's much better with the whole map thing than me. It was a good call and we each selected a crepe off the "Savory" side of the menu (Curry chicken for me, broccoli and goat cheese for her) and then we split a dessert crepe. Totally stuffed, we headed back to Hyde Park. We met up with Sydney's new boyfriend, Grant (ooh! new character!) at his apartment for some Scrabble, Carlo Rossi and laffy taffy. Sydney was (ahem) discouraged from playing so that Grant and I could test each other out. He opened with "Regeared," a 63-point word, and I nearly gave up. Don't be alarmed, I won in the end when he tried to play "vin" (which is not a word) after falsly convincing himself that "lav" wouldn't be in the dictionary (it was.) All the while, Grant and his friend karaoked to Bob Dylan, Sydney knit some socks and we all made fun of the stupid children who send in jokes to the Laffy Taffy company (What kind of key doesn't open a lock? A monkey!) Two glasses of Carlo made me tad drowsy, so I headed home after a round of cards.

Saturday Morning: My finals-week friends invited me over for brunch, so I stopped at the grocery store on the way over. It was a team effort, and the five of us made and devoured a pitcher of smoothies, 2 loaves of cinnamon-raisin French toast, a whole package of bacon and a lot of coffee. It was all delicious.

Saturday Afternoon: Casey and I went downtown to see the newest Court Theatre production. Court is a professional theater company that lives in Hyde Park and they offer awesome student discounts. Normal tickets = $50, student tickets = $10. Score. Court puts on 5 shows a season, and my goal this year is to see all three. I'm 3 for 3 as of right now. Normally, the shows are right off campus, but for The Wild Duck, they partnered with the Museum of Contemporary Art. So at intermission, Casey and I snuck upstairs to peek around the galleries and so some rather disturbing exhibits including one featuring human bones. We decided we're going back to the MCA soon to spend more time with the art and less time with Henrik Ibsen.

Saturday Night: Trick question! I'm clearly sitting at my computer writing this post. Actually, I just finished my dinner, I'm watching an episode of Brothers and Sisters, and then I'm heading down the hall to an apartment party in my building with Grant and Sydney.

All of that and it's only Saturday! Coming up:

Sunday: Brunch at Salonica with my friend Talia. She and I teach creative writing together at a local elementary school and she graciously gave me a guided tour of Berlin last summer. I haven't seen her in a week, so it'll be nice to get some quality time. Following brunch, I head to work for a couple of hours, the gym, and then Casey's to watch the first half of the Superbowl. Why only the first half? Because neither the Bears or the Patriots are playing and all I want to see is Jennifer Hudson sing the national anthem.

Did I get trashed this weekend? No. Did I have a good time with my friends? Yes. Did I get downtown? Yes (twice!). Did I eat good food, kick ass at Scrabble, watch a great movie and see an excellent (albeit depressing) play? Yes. Is that fun? I don't know, you tell me.

Show Me the Money

I know it's not the most pleasant of subjects, and that it might very well be the element of the whole college process that you're doing your best to ignore, but I want to talk about money. Why? Because college is freaking expensive! Also, I just finished reading an excellent book, Naked Economics, by the University of Chicago's very own Charles Wheelan, and now have a much clearer understanding of how the world works. At least, I have a much clearer understanding of how Charles Wheelan thinks the world works, and he made an awful lot of sense.

So anyway, money. Right. You worry about it, your parents worry about it. Or maybe they don't, in which case, lucky you. But let's assume that $50,000 a year (that would be the all-inclusive total for a year here at Chicago) is not just chump change for your family. There are two really important questions, 1) Where the hell do you get it from and 2) Is it really reasonable to spend that much on just a year of college?

Neither question has an easy answer, but let me start with the first one. The short answer is: a lot of places. So it works like this: You get into the University of Chicago (yay for you!) Your parents are like, $50k, wtf! So then you apply for financial aid, which essentially means that you fill out a whole bunch of paperwork. Then the University crunches numbers and they send you back a financial aid package. Imagine a little pie-chart with the following categories: Grants, Loans, Family Contribution and Work Study. The package they'll send you will have placed little numbers next to each of those categories telling you how they expect the 50k to break down. The grant part is the best part, because that's the part they are just going to give you. As for the loans, well, you'll start with federal loans (like the Stafford and Perkins) which are designed for college students. The family contribution will be how much the University is actually expecting your family to pay. And Work Study will be how they expect you, as the student, to contribute towards your education.

What if you get your little package back and your parents look at the expected family contribution and are like, "um... yeah... we don't exactly have that." That's when you start looking at private loans. Does this whole process suck a lot? Yes, but it is, very literally, the price you pay for a top-notch education. About 50% of students here receive some degree of financial aid. In the words of my favorite High School Musical song, we're all in this together. Everybody's pie chart looks a little different, but more people have them don't.

The second question is a little trickier, so this is where I'm going to pull Charles Wheelan into the conversation. I've never taken an econ class, so forgive me if I'm a little hazy on the language. The question is, why pay $50k a year for a private institution when you probably have a perfectly good state school around the corner offering you a much, much cheaper deal. I can't answer that question for everybody, but I can tell you what Charles Wheelan would say. He would tell you that a college education is an investment in human capital, your human capital, to be specific. He would tell you that your earning potential dramatically improves with a college education. And consequently, the more you invest in your education (and I mean more than just finanically), the bigger the return. I am not, let me be clear, guaranteeing that University of Chicago degree will make you a millionaire. All I'm saying is that a University of Chicago degree gives you the tools, connections and a good, solid head start towards success.

A Look Backwards

You know it better than me, but it's that time of year when everyone loses their minds and people go absolutely batshit crazy. I'm actually not referring to the crazed Christmas shoppers flooding the mall or the obnoxious carolers that I can't avoid on the radio. I'm referring to the time of year when the first round of letters start to go out and people who you thought were stable, balanced folks reveal their internal crazy.

I graduated high school in 2006 from a large, highly competitive public high school in Massachusetts. Of the 450 kids in my graduating class, 98% went to four-year colleges, and the bulk of those went to name-recognition type places. I was incredibly lucky in that the school that I went to provided a lot of AP classes, good counseling services and teachers who were (for the most part) highly-qualified and enthusiastic. I'm telling you this just so you have a sense of where I'm coming from, because god knows my experience was not the norm.

It all started in December when the first round of early decisions was handed down from the admissions gods on high. People absolutely lost their minds. It was ALL anyone could talk about. In class, at lunch, after school, online, it was incessant and annoying and like a drug, we just couldn't stop. At my school, we had a wonderful tradition (and I say that half with nostalgia and half with sarcasm) of posting our rejection letters on a Wall of Rejection in the cafeteria. Every afternoon, students of all ages (the miniature freshman included) would scrutinize the board to see what new insult had been added to the dozens of pages of posted injury. The vast majority of posted letters were from top tier schools, and there was something to be said for collectively commiserating over the individual disappointments of our classmates. And then, there was always one poor kid who had clearly overreached (I'm not sure how to conjugate that...) and had to post a letter from each of the top ranked schools.

Depressing much? Yeah, a bit. But here's thing to remember. Each of those kids who posted rejection letters also got acceptance letters. How do I know? Because of that statistic I cited way back at the beginning. You know what else? Those kids go to some damn fine schools. A lot of people seem to think that the only colleges worth attending are the ones whose rankings only have on digit, and I promise that that is completely wrong. I have good friends happy at all kinds of schools, state schools, private schools, big schools, small schools, top ten schools, not top ten schools, etc.

So here's my advice as the horrible period begins... do your best to hang on to a little perspective. This is an exciting time, scary for sure, but exciting. It's a rather ridiculous process and if you can keep a smile on your face and keep your friends close, you'll be fine.

Christmas Carols with the Men of CMAC

As you've seen in the lovely photos posted last week, winter has officially landed in Chicago. And it has landed hard, indeed. The entrance to our apartment has been completely taken over by scarves, hats, boots and other warm and fuzzy things. I find myself craving hot chocolate every thirty seconds and when Kristin made hot apple cider a few nights ago, I swear I almost kissed her.

One of the best parts about the holiday season, in my humble opinion, is the music. I know it's cheesy and ridiculous, but I love it. Last night was a perfect example. Chicago Men's A Capella (CMAC) was having their annual Christmas concert at Hyde Park Union Church. Between my roommates and I, we know a fair number of the guys in the group, so we weren't going to miss the show.

The guys filed into the church in pairs wearing blue blazers and bow-ties. As they took the stage, we thumbed through the programs to get a sense of what was coming. The variety was really what did it for me. There were some classics (Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas), some beautiful pieces in latin, a cantata call Lambscapes that redid "Mary Had a Little Lamb" in six different styles, a couple of drinking songs and a hometown favorite, I'm Strong for Chicago. After every few numbers, their conductor asked the audience to stand and we all sang together. Kimi, lucky girl, has a beautiful voice, but I am not so blessed. I sang quietly and hoped that the people around us would think that her voice was mine. For The Twelve Days fo Christmas the conductor orchestrated a ridiculous up-and-down dance between the two sides of the church. My side was standing for the odd numbers and sitting for the evens. It was exhausting but hilarious.

After the show, Kimi, Kristin and I went home for a bit before the after party. We did the dishes and danced around to Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas (one of my all time favorite holiday songs) and some N*SYNC. We took the SafeRide van to the party (more for warmth than security) and arrived just in time to see half of the CMAC men break into song again. They spent a good forty minutes rehashing the show, singing bits and pieces of their favorites. The highlight was when one of the group leaders, currently studying abroad in Germany, gchatted in and serenaded the whole apartment.

So Who Does Community Service Actually Serve?

Since I happen to know that Amy is somewhere over Pennsylvania (she's on the same flight as my roommate Kimi) I'm going to squeeze a little post between the chunks of her four-part series.

Back when I was doing the whole college application thing, one of the issues I tended to fret over was community service. Should I just pack in as many hours as possible in as many different places as I can? Should I focus my energies in one direction to show commitment and dedication? Should I raise money? Volunteer time? Organize my classmates? All of the above?

I ended up doing a little bit of all of those things. On the one hand, it "worked," I got into college. On the other hand, I don't think my "service" really benefit anybody in the long run. That may sound rather cynical... and it is. It was haphazard, inefficient and all for the wrong reasons. Yes, getting into college is important, and community service is a facet of that. The problem with the system is that it makes community service a means to an end, and an end that has nothing to do with serving your community.

When you arrive here in Chicago, do your best to make this place your home. I know a lot of people here (not naming names) who essentially consider their four years in Chicago a long, expensive vacation. I don't like these people very much. You will spend four years here, almost a quarter of your life so far. This is a community that you live in, and I don't just mean the University campus. You will study here, for sure. But your bank will be here, your grocery store will be here, your dry cleaner will be here, your hairdresser will be here. You will go out to dinner here, and buy birthday presents for your friends here. And of all of these things that you'll do here, none of them will be in a UofC vacuum.

The University of Chicago and the neighborhood of Hyde Park have a long and tumultuous relationship. It is a complicated place we live in, and you need to find a way to fit yourself into it. No one is suggesting that the purpose of college is to devote all of your waking hours to community service, what I'm suggesting is that you find a way of integrating yourself into the community that already exists. There are a million and half ways of doing this, and y'all are smart kids so I bet you can figure them out. Suffice to say, there are schools, churches, hospitals, clinics, art centers, etc. and they can all use a little help.

There are about 5,000 undergrads at this school. Imagine what kind of change we could affect if each of those people put in two hours a week. 10,000 hours of community service every week.

You will undoubtedly leave Chicago changed; you will certainly be older, and probably wiser. Do your best to find a way to leave this place just a little bit better than when you found it.

In case you're so profoundly inspired by this post, check out the University Community Service Center, Neighborhood Schools Program and the Community Service Leadership Training Corps.

A Guest Post from Sydney Herself

You've heard all about her. This is how we became friends. This is why we are still friends. This is one way we occupy ourselves, or this, and sometimes this. With no further ado, here is Sydney on Sydney (and on what it means to be an RA):

As I transition to my new job as an RA this quarter, one question I keep hearing from all sides is, "So how's RA-ing?"

I like this question for so many reasons. First, the use of the job as a verb is perfect, because it's not just a title, it's an action too, I am your RA and I RA you, if you need me. A big part of what I do is try to make myself available to my residents, for everything from finding lost keys and helping hammer out course schedules for next quarter, to working through relationship issues and going to the emergency room.

Another reason I like this question is because it's something I always have a good answer to. Unlike, "So how's class?" or "How was your weekend?" to which I tend to respond, "Fine. Good. You?" I always find myself answering the RA question with a good story of something that has happened to me in the past few days. Like the time my residents helped me sneak into a movie theater after we realized I had bought enough tickets for all of them, but not one for myself. Or the afternoon I saw one of my other RA friends for the first time after training ended, and we compared notes on the numbers of o-mances
(short romances lasting only the duration of o-week) going on in our houses. Or the time I learned the hard way that butter thickens chocolate instead of helping it melt, and ended up serving study break a good half hour after I promised, to a chorus of cheers from my residents.

I became an RA because I wanted to stay in housing, because all my friends (Emily included) insisted on moving into apartments scattered through Hyde Park, but I wasn't ready to leave a community where there are always people playing a game or watching a movie in the lounge, heading off for pick-up frisbee games on the MSI lawns at midnight, or debating at the dinner table the meaning of the term "marriage" or the proper ratio of men to women on their future moon colony.

So while you worry over whether that high school teacher really did mail in your recommendation (and whether it glowed enough to get you in), take comfort in the fact that when you finally get to move out of your parents' house next fall, there will be a house (and an RA!) ready to be your new family (and we won't even nag you to do your homework).