Monday, March 17, 2014

My First Year...

A favorite study spot in the Library
For high school seniors this is both an exciting and a stressful time of year, as the college process finally starts to wind down toward a single decision. With all the new friends I’ve made and fun times I’ve had in college, I can hardly believe it has only been a year since I was in those shoes myself. As the time for acceptance letters and final spring visits approaches, I thought I’d share some of the things about Mac that I’ve come to love most.

First, in terms of academics, I’ve appreciated the intimate community here at Mac. In fact, it was what most attracted me to the school even during my Spring Sampler visit last April before I’d enrolled. The week before, I had sat in on a cell biology course at a large state school. Since I’m enthusiastic about natural science, the material was certainly interesting to me, but the lecture hall looked more like a large theater than a classroom.

Outside on Kagin Lawn just after the first big snowfall in November

At Mac, I visited a course with comparative subject matter, and the difference was incredible. I sat in the front row of a class of about 15 students and got to ask questions that were thoroughly and clearly answered by both the professor and the student presenter. Since arriving on campus as a student I’ve been struck by how much opportunity there is to seek out academic assistance. Professors are frequently in their offices and eager to help, and then there are student tutors and even librarians assigned to help with research projects. Simply put, I have never had an assignment where I felt stuck and alone. There is always some way to find help on campus, even if it’s just working collaboratively with other students.

Speaking of other students, I’ve been blessed with new friends from a wide variety of backgrounds. Everyone I meet seems to have a unique passion, both academically and extracurricularly. One of my own passions is baseball, and when I moved in last August I was disappointed not to find any new teammates on my dorm floor. Fortunately, the baseball team members were quick to introduce themselves and make me feel like one of their own, while the tight community on my floor has helped me broaden my horizons and appreciate new things.

My next-door neighbor Talia performing at a poetry slam on campus, Just one of the broad range of talents and passions on my dorm floor
Among my floormates are athletes in ten other sports, four a cappella singers, an African Music Ensemble member, a quiz bowl competitor, and a slam poet, just to name a few. Living so close to my peers has allowed me to form great friendships with them, which motivates me to attend their games, concerts, and other events to support them and their hard work. Being thrust into a community whose members have such varied interests has been a great learning experience for me.

Macalester is unique in being a liberal arts school in the middle of a large urban area, which was definitely a draw for me. The advantage of such a city location is that there is something for everyone to enjoy. The theater scene is one of the best in the nation, and includes the world renowned Guthrie Theatre. Art and architecture fans can marvel at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Center, and the beautiful buildings of Summit Avenue, the  St. Paul Cathedral, and the Minnesota State Capitol.

The cities also have done a  good job of preserving their natural beauty. You don’t have to go far to find a walk that will lead you through woods and past waterfalls, along rivers and quiet lakes. Then there are the four major league sports teams in town, and the fantastic network of bike trails, which I’ve often explored alone or with friends. Plus, the convenient and easy-to-use bus system makes it easy to see the Twin Cities without a car.

Over my first year I’ve found Macalester to be an extraordinary place, with excellent opportunities to learn and get involved on campus, paired with a vibrant and easily accessible urban environment. I am excited to meet prospective students at Mac’s spring samplers and show them my school in person, and I wish them the best of luck as admissions decisions are sent and they move towards their final decision of where to spend the next four years.

—Dan K. ’17 (Flossmoor, Illinois)