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ISSUE 118 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/6/2005

Deliberately living in Northfield

By Kelly Wilson
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 6, 2005

Take a look at your summer plans. Take a long, hard look at them. Will you be back in your hometown, flipping burgers at the local McDonald’s or folding knit top after knit top at Gap? Will you be choking on swarming clouds of mosquitoes at summer camp, while you run after 20 11 year-olds who think they’re better than you and don’t mind telling you so? Will you be scraping off gum residue from under the banister in your old elementary school while working as a custodian? Or will you be just another lump on the couch in your parents’ basement?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, perhaps you should consider your alternatives. Spending the summer in Northfield is one alternative that every St. Olaf student should think about. For many, the idea of staying on the Hill during the summer months is absolutely inconceivable. But for a few Oles, summer means staying put right here in Northfield.

Most of the 190-200 students who remain on the Hill take summer classes, while others engage in professor-initiated research. No matter what the vernal calling, spending the summer in Northfield entails preparing oneself for an altered Hill experience. Each of the two summer school sessions are five weeks long, and during each session students may take up to two classes. Classes last for about an hour and a half every morning, with three hour labs for the science classes in the afternoon. Researchers work from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. with their professors.

As Director of Residence Life Pamela McDowell reported, this summer, the students will live in Rand. Thorson is also traditionally used for summer housing, due to the need for 200 beds to accommodate enrolled students. Rand’s benefits include not only its decent temperature control (other residence halls can get quite warm in the summer), but also its ample kitchen space. Rand has three kitchens, whereas Thorson only has one. Jenny Kohler ‘07, a resident of Thorson last summer, reported that this lack of space made the kitchen “busy from five to seven p.m. when researchers were making dinner.”

Although meal plans are offered, students are largely dependent on themselves for meals.

“My roommates and I would take turns making dinner – which usually consisted of some kind of pasta or sandwiches,” said Ashlee Duimstra ‘05, who has resided in Northfield for the past two summers. “We definitely ate our fair share of PB and J's, pretzels and string cheese.”

The Office of Residence Life helps to create a laid-back atmosphere during the summer by hosting social programs each week, including movies, dances, bonfires and cookouts for the residents. Kohler and Rachel Dyer ’07 reported spending their free time going on bike rides, frequenting restaurants (the Ole Store and Froggy Bottoms), playing tennis, running on campus trails and going for walks. Dyer noticed the abundance of Frisbee golf players on campus, as well as the frequency of barbeques.

“On weekends, people pretty much made their own plans and had their own cars to do their own thing,” Kohler said. This can make campus a pretty dull place. “Other than going on little escapades to the Cities to visit art museums or shop, we watched a whole heck of a lot of Sex and the City,” Duimstra said. All in all, the environment is more relaxed than during the school year, offering a nice change of pace for all.

“Students get to know each other pretty well, even though the ‘check-in-check-out’ system makes the dorm seem like a hotel at times,” McDowell said. “The weekends also have a tendency to empty the campus and make it seem like a commuter college.”

McDowell also expressed the flexibility of the summer social programs that Residence Life offers. “It doesn’t have to be an RA-run schedule,” she said. Students can contribute their ideas on how to make the summer atmosphere more enjoyable; the staff is always open to suggestions.

However, despite the wealth of good things people had to say about summer stays, the program also has its drawbacks. Several students complained about the heat problem in the residence halls, and McDowell made it known that students should be aware that there is a bounty of activities going on in town and elsewhere besides the Hill. “It isn’t like camp,” she said. There are no enforced bonding times and no group pow-wows, but “if students want something to get organized, all they have to do is ask for it,” she said.

Most students are extremely satisfied with their summers on the Hill. “I highly recommend staying in Northfield for the summer,” Duimstra said. With such satisfaction (and such risky employment ventures elsewhere in the world), how can you leave?

Applications are being accepted for the upcoming summer sessions through May 13. Contact Pamela McDowell or Peg Walter in the Office of Residence Life for more information.

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