Tuesday, October 29, 2013

From the Big Apple to Minnie-apolis



When I chose to go to college in Minnesota, no one at home in New York City was sure why. In fact - I would bet that a lot of them didn't even know where Minnesota was - or that it was home to Prince, Bob Dylan and Garrison Keiller! Some friends and I got on the internet and learned some quirky facts - like that the inventors of Scotch Tape were from Minnesota, and Milk is the state drink. Still, no one really understood why I would choose a college so far from home.

 I have never had a typical school experience. From being one of the only native english speakers in the kindergarten of a brand new elementary school, to having 2 hours of art class every day in middle school, to going to high school in an office building on Wall Street, I had run the gamut of off-kilter New York public school experiences. Growing up in NYC, taking two subways each way to get to my high school, zipping between boroughs to see my friends on weekends, navigating crowded sidewalks and never ending noise - I wanted a break from it. I love my city, and being a New Yorker is a huge, intrinsic part of who I am. But I was ready to leave. NYC will always be there, but college happens once. I was ready for something different- a campus, with trees and brick buildings and students sitting out on the lawn. Macalester is exactly that! 

Still, I knew that I couldn't last long without that city buzz, so I wanted to be somewhere where a city was accessible, easy to travel to (how do you know I'm really a New Yorker? I'm a senior in college and I still can't drive a car) and fun. Luckily, Mac's location in the Twin Cities was ideal! Macalester is in quiet residential St Paul, a short bus ride from Downtown and Lowertown, and just across the river from Minneapolis. I live in a neighborhood with houses and backyards, but I can take a bus and be in a glittery metro area of tall buildings and beeping taxi cabs. The Twin Cities have a thriving art and theatre scene and many diverse neighborhoods to explore. To me, Macalester is the perfect middle ground because I can have that college experience of living on a green (or snow covered...) campus in the middle of a quiet, residential area but I also have the option of going to a concert in the cities almost any day of the week. We have an open campus, so pedestrians and families from the neighborhood often stroll through with their kids or dogs, Mac students frequent the cute restaurants down the block from campus, and it's super easy to take the bus to the supermarket, the pharmacy or to Target. People bike all over the Twin Cities, and there are tons of events, festivals and performances in the Cities all the time (and a lot of times, Mac students are either the ones performing, or we get awesome discount rates subsidized by the college). Coming from one of the most heavily immigrant cities in the USA, it was also important to me that the Twin Cities are pretty diverse, with large immigrant communities from South East Asia, East Africa and Latin America. 

Another hugely important factor for me was Macalester student body. Due to our central location in the States, global reach and connection with the UWC schools, there are students from alll over the United States of America - and all over the world. Personally, I didn't like that the majority of the north east colleges I looked at were mainly populated by students from the tri-state and New England area. I wanted to go to college with kids from all over the country, and I found that at Mac. My friends are from cities like Nashville and Seattle as well as from small towns in Ohio and Pennsylvania, diary farms in the Midwest and cities and towns alike in countries like France, Malaysia and China. I wish that more East Coast students would recognize the potential of moving West for college - being surrounded by brilliant peers from every imaginable location and walk of life has been an invaluable and incredible part of my Macalester experience. Also, the fact that Mac is one of the best liberal arts colleges for my intended major (international studies) didn't hurt either.

So, three years later, I am finally able to answer "Why Minnesota?!" Because where else could I 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 the heart of Minneapolis, and maybe even see a few stars at night? For me, Mac is the best of both worlds.