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ISSUE 118 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/29/2005

Readership program expands worldview

By Brenna Bray
Staff Writer

Friday, April 29, 2005

Over spring break, I did not indulge in a week of vacation or relaxation. I instead went home to work.

Aside from the 6 a.m. awakenings – two hours earlier than my school wakeup times – I spent my days following almost the same routine that I follow here on the Hill: wake up, go to work, eat lunch, take a nap, go back to work, eat dinner, go workout, wind-down and finally, sleep.

During break, the weather stayed almost exactly the same; I had merely moved 70 miles north, and my peers simply shifted from friends to family.

I was not on vacation and I was not at St. Olaf, but I still managed to stay afloat in my own little “bubble.”

I started going to bed earlier to account for my earlier wakeup times, but regardless of my structural consistency, I could not help feeling restless before bedtime each night.

The problem was not energy – my work wore me out and I greeted my bed with tired bones each night. But despite my hard work, I felt unfulfilled.

After perusing my parents’ bookshelf for a good bedtime read – unsuccessfully – I realized that I had not read a newspaper since I’d left St. Olaf.

With The New York Times, USA Today and Star Tribune available as I leave my dorm each morning, I’ve incorporated newspapers into my daily routine.

Truth be told, I am faithful only to the horoscopes, but in getting to them, I page through most of the paper and at the very least read the really important headlines.

I may not learn about all the issues surrounding the day’s controversies, but my humble routine helps me maintain some connection to the outside world.

The night that I came to this realization, I wanted to page through a Star Tribune as I never had before. I had never before experienced a craving for global awareness on a daily basis.

I’ve always recognized “the St. Olaf bubble” with fondness and nostalgia, but over break, I realized that the USA Today College Readership Program had managed to burst through – or at least broaden – my little world on the Hill.

I began to recognize the St. Olaf bubble for what it really is – ignorance.

After acknowledging Nietzsche’s insight that “ignorance is bliss,” I pondered the irony that St. Olaf, a college renowned for its global perspective, could be so unworldly.

Perhaps I am the campus ignoramus, but before the College Readership Program, I had never once been bothered by my international ignorance.

I remember explaining to my parents over fall break of my first year on campus that they should not expect me to have heard of the snipers in Washington, D.C.

I did not have a television, did not subscribe to any newspapers, did not get clear radio reception and only used the campus computers when I absolutely had to do research or write a paper.

When I was not learning, studying or training for my fall sport, I was eating, socializing or sleeping – and I doubt that I was the only one who had this schedule.

With my full-on immersion in the St. Olaf community, I lost sight of the greater world around me.

I was so busy learning the fastest route from Old Main to Skoglund that I no longer cared about America’s international trading policies.

I studied my Spanish book instead of reading La Granma on-line and I collected IM screen names instead of keeping tabs on politicians and celebrities.

Perhaps this isolation helped me to adapt more quickly to my life on the Hill.

Perhaps it helped me to increase my academic ambitions rather than my international interest during my sophomore year.

Maybe, in the scheme of things, international awareness is a stage of Ole development that commonly occurs during junior year.

Or maybe the USA Today College Readership Program has expanded the St. Olaf bubble, adding a new dimension to development at St. Olaf.

Either way, I am glad to be back on campus, where I know I can obtain a copy of the Star Tribune each morning as I leave my dorm.

After being denied the option of perusing the Star Tribune’s enlightening pages over break, I have vowed to take greater advantage of the Readership Program.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve even made time to read entire articles on newsworthy events. I find it gives my horoscopes some context.

Staff writer Brenna Bray is a junior from Stillwater, Minn. She majors in psychology with a media studies concentration.

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