By | Emma Pulido ’14

Why Minnesota? My response would be: Because where else could we make friends with people from all over the world, lie in green grass, get authentic Middle Eastern food a block from campus?

Choosing where to attend college is a big decision. There are small schools, big schools, city schools, small-town schools—it’s hard to narrow it down. From a tiny kindergarten where my classmates spoke almost as many languages as my Mac peers do to high school in a Wall Street office building, I ran the gamut of off-kilter New York public school experiences.

Having grown up in New York City, taking two subways each way to class, navigating the crowded sidewalks and endless noise, I wanted a break from NYC’s breakneck pace. I love my city and being a New Yorker is a big part of who I am, but I was ready to leave for awhile. I was ready for something a little more normal: A campus with trees and brick buildings and students sitting on the lawn.

Still, I knew I wouldn’t last long without some city buzz, so I sought a college with an accessible downtown. Luckily, at Mac I have two: St. Paul and Minneapolis. Macalester is located in a residential section of St. Paul, just a short bus ride from the city’s urban core, and just across the river from downtown Minneapolis. For me, Macalester is the perfect middle ground because I can have that college experience of living on a grass- (or snow-) covered campus in a quiet residential area but I can also get to a big city concert, theater, or restaurant any night of the week.

Luckily, I’m in good company here at Macalester. My peers have come from all over the country and the world, leaving behind such metropolises as Boston, Seattle, Beijing, Sao Paulo, Stockholm, and Kuala Lumpur. While some of us have lived in large cities all our lives, others had previous practice outside the urban comfort zone.

So Nakayama ’15 (Tokyo), for example, left his huge hometown for a UWC high school in rural Wales at 17. He says location was not as important as other criteria in choosing a college, and he knew he would be fine anywhere after experiencing both “the world’s largest city and a village whose sheep population was bigger than its human one.”

So and I have both left behind cities with extensive subway systems, and it has taken us some time to adjust to the Twin Cities’ bus-centric transit system. But it seems to have worked out well for So: He managed to complete an off-campus internship last year, commuting entirely by bus.

Like me, Heather Renetzky ’15 (Los Angeles) was “pretty set on the idea of a college town.” She wanted a break from the SoCal lifestyle, and was excited about the Midwest’s famous season changes. She likes feeling connected to the surrounding community, but also likes that it’s “easy to forget about Macalester’s city location while living on our green campus.” While she is glad Mac is not surrounded by a “big city vibe,” she loves the mobility and hands-on learning opportunities afforded by our metro location. Says Heather, “Macalester is the perfect compromise. I get to escape the hustle and bustle without feeling trapped in the middle of nowhere. While I did initially think I wanted a school surrounded by trees, now I’m glad I go to one surrounded by trees and civilization.”

A lot of Mac students get actively involved in the Twin Cities scene, be it through music, theater, or volunteering. Charlie Stanton ’15 (Chicago) “wanted to be in a place where I could be surrounded by peers, but also be exposed to different neighborhoods and people not affiliated with the school,” which could be found through the “fun sports environments and groovy music scenes” he found in the Twin Cities.

Thanks to our open campus, neighborhood families often stroll through with their kids or dogs. Mac students frequent the cute restaurants down the street from campus, and it’s easy to take the bus to the supermarket, pharmacy, or Target. People bike all over the Twin Cities, and there are tons of events, festivals, and performances going on all the time (to which we often get discounts, subsidized by the college). The Twin Cities are also diverse, with large immigrant communities from Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America.

So, in answer to the now infamous question, Why Minnesota? My response would be: Because where else could we make friends with people from all over the world, lie in green grass, get authentic Middle Eastern food a block from campus, access a bus that leads straight to a big-city downtown, and maybe even see a few stars at night? For us, Macalester is and always will be the best of both worlds.

November 1 2013

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