Rural campus fosters camaraderie, safety

It’s no secret that two of St. Olaf’s biggest sellers are the sense of community and the picturesque location of downtown Northfield. Tour guides and the college’s website promote life on the Hill as a rural wonderland with easy access to the Twin Cities.

Life here on the Hill is quite different from life at the University of Minnesota or Macalester College. Some Oles may miss the hustle and bustle of city life and access to the night life. Personally speaking, I miss going out with friends, grabbing dinner or shopping without having to figure out shuttle or bus fares.

However, while the urban location may seem ideal to some college students, there’s a reason why I ultimately picked quiet Northfield.

When I was choosing a university, my very wise mama reminded me to think about my mental health and to find a place that would make me feel happy. I soon learned about the importance of green space and how it plays into your mental health. Shockingly, spending more time around trees, fresh air and sunshine can do wonders.

Between our famous natural lands and historic downtown Northfield, the St. Olaf campus thrives on its location. Being trapped on a hill, some refer to St. Olaf as a bubble. While this is true, I think overall this is what makes St. Olaf different from other college campuses.

The rural location of St. Olaf lends itself to being more inviting and community driven. A small town and a smaller population allow students to not get lost within a big city. Students here at St. Olaf have the options and opportunity to take advantage of all the cities have to offer while being a part of a true campus community.

I do miss the excitement of living in a bigger city, but I fear that by being at a bigger campus I would get lost in a sea of people or find it harder to be involved in campus life.

Since Oles can’t rely on city events for entertainment, our student government plays an important role on our campus by planning events, hosting guest lectures and staging concerts. All of this makes the community aspect of St. Olaf much more special.

Being on such an enclosed campus also makes me a more productive student. I’m not as tempted to go shopping or buy food or coffee when it means having to go out of my way to get it. Of course online shopping and Pause pizza make procrastination a lot more tempting, but overall having a quiet (except for the trains) and calm campus does lend itself to being a better place to study.

While I was a prospective student listening to my mama’s advice on mental health, I also considered another important topic: my safety. Every campus has its issues and we’ve all heard the terrifying stats on sexual assaults on college campuses. St. Olaf’s small campus and quiet surounding neighborhoods aren’t free of this; however, due to the lack of a stereotypical Greek life and hard party culture (like at the U of MN), St. Olaf’s close-knit community is more focused on looking out for each other and having those hard conversations when events do happen.

St. Olaf’s Hallmark movie-like location has its pros and cons but overall the trade-off, to me, is worth it. At the end of the day, I will take a quiet campus and a community I can rely on over the city life any day.

Lydia Bermel ’22 ( is from Lakeville, Minn. Her major is undecided.