Esther Biesse was born in Paris and has lived in India, Tunisia, Morocco, and now Winnipeg, Canada, with her French father, a water treatment engineer working on local contracts, and her mother, a Minneapolis native. Soon after arriving on campus, Biesse began digging in to make a difference in her new home.
What surprised you about life in the U.S.? The buses run on time; people ask how you are but don’t really expect an answer; there are highways and shopping centers.
Pluses and minuses of living in so many cultures: I think it’s made me open-minded and good at thinking on my feet. But on the other hand, when you’re used to constant change it can be hard to settle on something—like a major. Also, I don’t get common cultural references like ’N Sync and Moby Dick.
On being a resident assistant in the dorms: I wanted to create a genuine community like I had on Doty 2 when I first came to Mac. This is my second year as an RA; I am on Dupre 3 West and half my new students are taking a music-related first-year course, so they sing a lot. RAs take social justice training, so when there’s a problem, we approach it from a place of hoping to educate rather than shutting people down. As the senior RA of Dupre, I’m sort of a team leader.
On Breaking Free: I was the housing intern at this nonprofit, which helps women and girls leave prostitution. By focusing on getting to know the staff and what they do, I learned about other aspects of the program such as education and advocacy, and got an inside look at the ways crime, law, and psychology work together.
What have you learned from your experiences? One of the most important things I’ve learned is not to make assumptions about people.
What else do you do at Mac? For a class I volunteered at People Serving People, reading to kids and teens living in emergency housing. For two years I worked at Macalester’s Reunion, where I got to talk with some fascinating alumni. I also served on the committee for this year’s Winter Ball, which was a great success.
Advice for new students: Experience a lot of things. Talk with everyone, not just the people you’re most comfortable with. Get to know your RA. Take everything as a learning experience—you won’t always get it right the first time.