A farewell letter to Lister

Janessa Morin - 21 April 2021

August 26th, 2017. A bright-eyed, enthusiastic and younger version of myself sat in the back seat of my parents’ car, filled with all my belongings, a banging playlist and an intensely hopeful energy for the 13+ hour car ride from Winnipeg. I remember telling my parents I was only living in residence for the convenience, but that in second year I was going to get a nice apartment and finish my degree over four years. Like I said–bright eyed, enthusiastic and maybe a little bit naïve.

Little did I know, in four short years I would be in a different program with a different end goal... but in the very same building that I thought would just be a quick stop in my university journey. I did not account for how much this community would mean to me. Here we are, April 2021: I’m finally moving on from Lister and part of me can’t help but reflect on how I got here.

First year

I still remember meeting my neighbour on move in day and striking up a conversation about snack foods. That neighbour turned out to be my first university friend (and still a close friend today) and the first few weeks of the semester were filled with similar interactions among floor members as we all became a little family.

My year on 8 Kelsey changed my definition of community. First year was tough, but we were always there to pick each other back up. We pushed through together. The late night lounge conversations had a lasting impact on me, and I’ll always be thankful for my floormates who were there through everything—the pizza orders, the physics lab stress, the dodgeball wins and losses and everything in between.

Second year

Bright-eyed and eager again, but this time as a new RA, I picked up my keys at the earliest possible time slot, not willing to wait any longer than necessary to take on the title of Resident Assistant.

My time in Henday was full of adventures, including but not limited to: cooking Thanksgiving dinner, playing wacky sports overnight, presenting at a Residence Life conference, a surprise birthday party and LOADS of Captain Crunch cereal. I had the most supportive RA team and SRAs, and a very energetic floor of first years. While that year certainly held the lowest of lows, it also had the highest highs and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Third year

More wizened than my previous first days, I entered my third year with an increased sense of confidence from experience as a returning RA. Third year was a busy one from the start, but I was ready.

One thing that kept me sane was coming home after a long day to see the lounge filled with my first years playing Monopoly or just hanging out. I loved the 3-1/2 Schäffer family dinners we’d have in the dining hall, debating about mashed potatoes or dipping cookies in orange juice. It felt effortless spending time with my floor.

When the COVID-19 pandemic made its way to Alberta, the year in residence got cut short, but even such an abrupt ending couldn’t keep me away from the building I’d begun to think of as a home.

Fourth year

Four months after COVID-19 had sent me packing, I made the long drive back to Edmonton, preparing for a year that would be like none I had ever experienced before. Not only was I taking on a new leadership role in the community as an SRA but I was also becoming a part of the ever-changing process of adapting to the “new normal” (as about 80 emails in my inbox called it).

This year threw an almost comical amount of challenges at me—but it also came with unexpected rewards. I developed a massive sense of pride for my RA team, who continuously came up with creative programs to engage our residents and discovered how to build a community without relying on almost all my prior knowledge of in-person team building.

Despite a very different world than the world of my first year, everywhere I looked I saw parallels with my favourite experiences from my first year. I saw friends going on cafeteria runs and RAs working hard to support their residents, making the best of a hard situation. It wasn’t the fourth year I expected, but it proved to be rewarding in its own way.

1,064 days in residence

Soon my residence story is going to be over. In a couple weeks, I’ll be going through the familiar motions of packing up my room, but this time I won’t have the comfort of knowing I’ll be back after the summer. Once I empty my Schäffer room this year, it’ll be for the last time.

I guess if you love something, you have to let it go. But one thing I’m holding onto is the fact that I don’t really have to let go. Sure, I won’t be physically living in Lister anymore, but I’m still part of the community I worked so hard to build. A significant part of my social network is made up of people I met throughout my years here, and moving out doesn’t mean I lose that. Really the community is all that matters. Community was at the base of all my fun adventures, my motivation to stay this long. Lister was the first place I felt like I really belonged.

Whether your residence journey is over 1,000 days like mine, or 100 days, or anywhere in between, I sincerely hope you’re able to find a place in the community like I did, because it’s genuinely been the highlight of my time at the U of A.

Your next you starts here, in residence, and you get to decide how to make the most of those days. Use them wisely. Take care, Lister, and thanks for everything.