It's A New Semester...Do You Know Where YOUR Programs Are?

So we're back to the wonderful land of the Banks of Fair, and it's spring semester. The sun is shining, the grass is green, the flowers are blooming, there's a scent of rain and pollen in the air—oh wait.

Not only is it still winter, but psyche—winter has only begun. “Spring” semester opened with a lovely welcome of -50 degrees.
We love you too, Fairbanks. We love you too.
What does this have to do with living in the dorms, you may ask? After all, this is the “living in Res Life” segment, and all this talk of outside?

Well, lesson #1 of the New Year at UAF—if you live on campus, the cold means that you will be spending a lot of time inside. A LOT. Unless you're snapping a picture down at the sign at -40 degrees, or hurrying (and I do mean hurrying) to the Tilly for some sustenance, suddenly the warm, cozy dorm room seems so much more appealing. Suddenly, people prefer studying (and the semester's only just started!). Some people turn to the wonders of Netflix. Others refine their pool-playing skills in the lounges of MBS. Others still make pot after pot after pot of coffee and wander like ghosts. Some play video games, some nap a lot more, and several walk up two flights of stairs and count it as fulfilling their “gym” time for the day. Others eat more, and give up on the gym all together, some blessed souls read, and countless individuals scour the Internet and fulfill their need for happiness via the hub known as Youtube.

This phenomenon isn't laziness or cowardice. The plain truth is, when it hurts to breathe and eyelashes freeze shut and vehicles become comatose and simple strolls requires 15 minutes of prep work in putting on extra layers, inside just becomes the new sanctuary.

Fear not, my friends. Your Resident Assistants (RA's, for those more savvy with the campus lingo) have already begun stretching out for this new race of a semester, and we have you covered. We have the solution to your endless dark days, when the walls of the dorms start to feel more like the walls of a hamster cage. The solution?


Programs are a wonderful and variable thing, both to participate and to create. Designed to be social and educational, programs begin to bloom in full force come the lonely winter days of January and February. Each RA hosts a minimum of two programs a month, and the creativity and gall of each one can reach great extents. While some are meant to be educational either about health, safety, sexual awareness, or alcohol awareness, all are also primarily a social union for residents to do something fun while they're cooped up in a building with hundreds of other students.

“I'm not a group scene kind of person,” you may say. “I'd rather just stay in my room and watch some movies or something. You know, relax.”

Well, looks like it's story-time. I had the same attitude as a freshman when it came to programs. As the shy girl from a small suburb in southern Alaska, I had no inclination at all to go play “Condom Bingo” with a bunch of strangers. The idea seemed strange and uncomfortable. I can't remember the exact moment I decided to relent—perhaps my extroverted roommate encouraged me to join her, or perhaps I really wanted to be part of the group and not be the same solitary person I had been in high school, and so against my better judgement, I attended my first program.

It wasn't a root beer pong tournament or anything of the sort—it was a relatively small program where a couple of the RA's in my building signed out a couple university vans, and offered to drive a group of students to the Comic Shop in town. Now, I have no particular invested interest in comics or comic book paraphernalia. However, my friend (who had told me about it in the first place) especially wanted to go, I hadn't yet been to the place, and it was a couple of hours I could get off campus. The worst thing that could happen was that I sit in the corner and read some selections off the shelf for a couple of hours. Oh, dear, the horror!

Now, don't get me wrong, the experience didn't create some wild epiphany or anything. But when you're in close quarters with a small group of strangers who live in the same space as you, something is bound to change. People started—gasp--talking to me. And I—GASP—talked back. A seemingly small feat, but for me, it was the start to making this the year I wanted it to be. I connected with the RA's a little more, especially good since they didn't live on my floor. I got off campus for the first time in ages, and as much as I love campus, sometimes a breather is good for a little adventure and perspective, as it gets much too easy to forget there's a world at the bottom of the hill of campus. I was exposed to a little bit of culture, and found that while I definitely am not the Comic Shop's main demographic, I can proudly say I have since visited the shop several times since with friends, and can always gravitate to things that will interest me.

After that program, other programs didn't seem so odd. Unique, certainly; creative, absolutely; strange, undoubtedly. Over the past two years, I've seen things as tame as Apples to Apples Pancake Night and hot chocolate sessions in the lounge, to things like Messy Twister, condom scavenger hunts, pillow fort building/destroying, sexual bingo, and extreme root-beer pong (don't ask, just check it out some time). I've learned that I live with some courageous, odd, and extremely funny people, and that it's okay to be a little brave, odd, and humorous with them.

So what's the take-home message here, kids? Don't be a bat in your dorm cave this next semester (unless you are indeed the which case...why are we not friends? Seriously.) Come tip a toe in the water at the next program coming up—you may find it tolerable, or even—dare I say it—enjoy it thoroughly. You'll foster some new friendships with people. You'll learn your RA's name, or at least their face. You'll find that the Banks of Fair is still alive when the sun and the temperature doesn't rise—you just need to look in the right places. Come join a program, guys—you're all invited.  

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