Interview with My RA: Hallie Banish

I scurry down the stairs of my residence hall, Governor's Hall, to the first floor lounge and kitchen area to interview my RA Hallie Banish.
Even standing outside the door of the lounge, I can smell the cupcakes being baked.
I walk into the kitchen to find Hallie teaching a resident how to bake cupcakes from a box but add homemade touches so as to save time as a college student, but still pour love into the batter like any great baker. The cupcakes of choice for the day were vanilla with a cookie dough base and kit-kat candy bar stuffed in another. No recipes from Pinterest, solely creativity.

Hallie sits down with me to answer some of my questions while watching over her shoulder to monitor the cupcakes.

1. Tell me a little about yourself. What year are you, what's your major, where are you from, and do you have any siblings or experience that prepared you to be responsible for other students?
- Hallie is currently a junior majoring in philosophy with a focus in pre-health. She is from Hickory, NC and has experience being responsible for other individuals because she has taken care of her younger brother her entire life since she was old enough to stay home alone.

2. When did you become interested in being a residential assistant, also known as an RA? How?
- Like most incoming freshmen students, Hallie had a rough transition period where it was hard being away from home along with all the new experiences and responsibilities that accompany being a first-year college student. Luckily her RA, Daniel Bradley, was amazing at his job and really helped Hallie adapt, allowing her to become better acclimated to the college settings. Daniel and her had a lot in common, allowing them to become friends over shared interests such as skiing. During that year as a freshman, Hallie thought that if she could be helpful and kind to someone like Daniel had been to her, it would be amazing. There are so many people who need help in different areas, maybe it's schoolwork or perhaps it is that initial transition period.
After first semester of her freshman year, Hallie was hired as a programming assistant and fell in love with the work.

3. After hearing your comments about Daniel, how would you define a good RA?
- Being a great RA isn't about hosting the most events and being extravagant. Instead, a great RA is about making your residents comfortable, for them to know that they can come to you for help or anything, whether it is a social question or a roommate conflict. Creating an open and safe space is crucial for open communication between an RA and their residents.

4. Explain a bit about how to become an RA. 
- In mid-spring semester there are a bunch of emails and ads out on campus about becoming a residential assistant. To begin the process in becoming an RA, you must attend the interest meeting that is held. From there, you then sign up, turn in an application, have an individual interview, and also a group interview on a separate day. This is all about a 3 week process. Before the end of the year, you are notified if you have been chosen. Training is 2 weeks in the fall, and then 1 week in the winter.

5. Do RAs choose the residence hall they live in?
- When chosen as an RA, you put down a preference of a residence hall, but then you have to explain why you think you would be a good "fit" for that residence hall. Similar to how the school pairs roommates based on personality, they also try to put RAs into residence halls in which they would thrive. For instance, an RA who is outgoing, social, and perhaps is more comfortable interacting with athletes will be placed in Mills residence hall due to the more social layout of the residence hall. On the other hand, an extroverted RA may prefer movie nights and social events within the residence hall may be placed in either South or West Ridge due to their quiet and secluded style.

6. Over your years working as an RA, which has been your favorite? Which your least favorite?
- Every year has their own pros and cons, they are all very different. 
As a freshman and a sophomore, Hallie worked in South Ridge, which is one of the quiet residence halls that hosts mainly freshmen. She enjoyed this hall because it is heavily based on community due to their multiple study lounges and common rooms.
Now, as a junior, Hallie works in Governor's Hall which is an upperclassman residence hall. Due to it being an upperclassman dorm, it is not as community based and does not have as many common areas. What drew Hallie to this residence hall was the notion that a lot of upperclassmen are left to be by themselves since they are no longer new and sometimes confused freshmen. Therefore this year Hallie wanted to try and account for those residents.

7. Every week you invite your hall's residents to join you for "Theatre Thursdays" in your room, where you bake us cupcakes and have a movie to watch. 
You also plan events outside of this weekly one, this is more than most RAs do... Why do you make so many ambitious plans?
- Hallie's simple answer to this is that RAs are friends too. They want their residents to view them as peers, and not solely as an authority figure. Friends have each other over for movie nights and bake cupcakes.

8. How did these ideas come to you?
- At the beginning of the year, Hallie had all her residents fill out a survey sheet to gauge their interests such as hikes, movie nights, or creating artwork. These answers are what have fueled her events so far. For instance the haunted hike she planned (see Haunted Trail Trip with My RA blog post) was for the outdoorsy people. Weekly movie night is for the ones that wanted to watch movies. Lastly, she converted the columns in the residence hall into chalkboards, which the residents can draw on, for the art lovers. Hallie tries to make sure that there is something for everyone, and that no one is left out.

9. Any other comments you feel people should know about you, or RAs in general? 
Such as, is it worth all the training and time commitment? 
- Being an RA is hard sometimes because you become friends with the residents and then they mess up and you still have to deal with them in a professional manner.
Despite this setback, Hallie still slaps her knee and proclaims "TOTALLY WORTH IT!"

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Haunted Trail Trip with My RA

Every floor of every residence hall has an RA, which is short for Residential Assistant.
Some large floors, such as ones in Overlook residence hall have two.
RAs are students whose job it is to help their residents with campus questions and maintain their safe living conditions. Rather than acting solely as an authority figure, they are also supposed to be able to be approached as a peer. The most apparent way for RAs to gain peer openness on their halls is by organizing events and hall meetings. 
For instance my hall theme is Candyland, so our first event tied into the idea that if we achieved certain tasks on campus, we would gain points similar to the board game, and ultimately be able to win prizes. 

Last night my RA, Hallie Banish, decided to team up with another RA to organize an event that would celebrate the approaching spooky holiday of Halloween. 
The trip consisted of a meal at Cookout and then a haunted hike at Pinhead's Graveyard in the mountains of Asheville. Transportation was provided by the RAs, you only needed to bring your own money for food and the trail - a great deal considering my friends and I do not have cars on campus. 

My friends and I all bundled up tight against the night's brisk air on the mountain trail. Before we prepared to have a good scare, we all enjoyed milkshakes along with other various treats at Cookout. 
Then we all climbed back into the cars for a 20 minute car ride to an area of the mountain where there were no street lights, only winding roads sprinkled with dim lights from houses. 

Then as we turned one bend, we saw the Pinheads sign... the blood red font seemed to drip off the sign that was dimly lit by a light from overhead. Before crossing the gate into the trail, the guys in the group puffed out their chests with fearlessness and tenacity; while the girls, including myself and my RA, huddled together like sheep, trying to find solace in the group mentality, avoiding being stuck on the ends of the group for the unease that comes with being jumped out at by characters of nightmares. 

A little while later, we all made it out unscathed. 
We all agreed that it wasn't as horrifying or bloodcurdling as we thought it would have been, allowing the girls and I some relieved laughter while the guys complained about wanting it to be longer. 

Although the trail itself was not tear-inducing or had us checking behind our backs us as we left, it didn't matter that much. 
What did matter was that my RA along with another one, joined forces to bring my friends and I, along with other residents, a fun Halloween event that allowed us to get off campus and have some laughs! 
The trail didn't need to be that scary for all of us to still have fun hanging out together and getting to know new residents from school in the group. 

We may not remember what ghoulish character jumped out at us first from behind a foggy tree... 
But we will remember how funny it was when the masked man flaunting his chainsaw did not make my friend, Brian, so much as even flinch. 

RA sponsored events such as these are one of the many perks of living on campus, and being able to join a group of peers for a fun night out.

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Tasty Treats Near Campus

When your stomach grumbles 
and the café will not suffice. 
And your sweet tooth beckons 
for something with ice...

Your feet should carry you
up and down the street
to Urban Burrito and the Hop 
for a nice treat. 

There are countless yummy food options within an easy walking distance of campus, such as Luella's BBQ, Circle in the Square Pizzeria, Urban Burrito, the Hop, Rise n' Shine, and Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company. 
For all of you fellow vegetarians looking for something with some flavor, do not fear because all of these restaurants, even Luella's BBQ have vegetarian options. BBQ tempeh anyone?

All of these eateries are enticing in their own way, my close friends and I having tried all of them before. Yet some other friends of mine had not tried Urban Burrito or the Hop, so we decided it was a night for new things. 

The walk there always seems rather short when venturing with friends to chat with. 
The food also helps make the walk worth it. 

As I entered Urban Burrito with my friends, I told myself I would try something new... 
Maybe a "Greek" quesadilla that was stuffed with feta cheese and spinach, or a burrito filled with jerk tofu? All of these various options from chicken to tofu, and plain tortillas to jalapeño flavored, is perhaps why the restaurant has the word "urban" in it - because it goes beyond your stereotypical walk-in Mexican restaurant. 

Yet when it came to be my turn to order, I froze and ordered my usual. 
A whole-wheat tortilla filled with black beans, rice, cheese, guacamole, and sour cream with a side of chips. 
May not have been the most original meal - but their salsa shakes things up. 
Lime pineapple, jalapeño hot, mild... take your pick.

After my friends and I finished our Mexican cuisine, we headed down the stairs of the complex to the ice cream shop, the Hop, which is owned by an UNC Asheville alum. 
All the flavors, vegan options included, are homemade and UNC Asheville students receive a discount when they present their Onecard student ids. 

The names of flavors were written all over the glass showcasing the ice cream containers... 
Ones we have come to see in every ice cream shoppe to ones that call for another glance. 
Butter pecan. 
Blueberry kale. 
Aztec chocolate. 

I chose two scoops - one chocolate and one pumpkin, to celebrate the coming of fall. 
Meanwhile, my friend picked a brownie accompanied by scoops of ice cream and decorated with whipped cream.

After a long week, it was nice to end on such a sweet note.

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Out and About On Campus

While I have been absent writing about campus, I have been experiencing campus events to their fullest. 

Over the past few weeks some things I have done include: 

Attended numerous environmental science seminars educating myself and fellow peers about humans' impacts on the planet, not-for-profit work, and much more. 
My favorite was Groundswell International: Agroecology - Cultivating an Alternate Future for People and the Planet
In this seminar, numerous speakers from around the world spoke of environmental issues threatening their communities such as sustainable farming, seed dispersal, local women's education to aid towns in third world countries, and so forth. Alumni hall in Highsmith was packed to say the least; the room was filled with not only environmental majors, but also students from economics, sociology, psychology, and anyone curious in general. 
My favorite speaker was from Ecuador because she spoke only in Spanish and needed a translator. I loved the fact that she spoke only in Spanish because I am currently practicing my Spanish to eventually study abroad. 

Successfully survived midterms, projects, and presentations alike... 
It is safe to say that every teacher wants you to value their class like it is your only class. 
They will not assign you impossible amounts of homework, but the homework they do assign, they expect you to do beautifully. For instance one of my teachers expects our essays to be "pages of artful prose, making an airtight argument..." 
It is easy to complete assignments with numerous resources available such as the writing center, which helps students compose papers. 
There is also the library and its website to search topic resources. 
Asking teachers and tutors for help is also an easy task because they are both easily approachable; reasonably sized classes of about 18 to no more than 30 allows each professor to know you by name. Most of my classes have about 18 people in them. 

Assisted freshman friends with planning their classes for next semester. 
Looking back to when I was a freshman planning my schedule without the help of my orientation leaders, I was not scared but rather paranoid that I would forget something or be unprepared. 
Every student has a faculty advisor, but you only have one meeting with them before registration opens; meaning you must be prepared for the meeting with any questions you may have. 
Of course you can schedule more than one meeting if needed, but it is easier to complete it as soon as possible. 
Nonetheless my sophomore peers and I assisted some of our freshman friends in the process of checking their required courses, advising them on good classes to take, which professors will meet their learning style as a student. 

Welcoming in fall and all of its glory... 
Between counselor events for alcohol awareness month, club meetings, Halloween preparations, and much more - campus has been bustling. 
There are countless events coming up in the rest of October such as the annual Sigma Nu Halloween party, Celebrating Madison County event (authors, artists, and such come to campus to speak), panel discussions concerning alcohol safety, and Halloween events taking place in the student union.


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