The feeling I got when first arriving at St. Olaf near the beginning of September was oddly familiar. I unloaded what felt to be way too many things into my new temporary residence. I talked to my friends from high school at a picnic, and finally, watched my parents drive into the distance. I experienced the same familiarity as being dropped off for a week of summer camp as a 12-year-old. Thanks to the hundred-degree weather during my first few days on campus, that combination of adrenaline, homesickness, and total exhaustion took a while to fade. Fortunately for me, I was assigned two chapters of reading on the first day of classes to bring me back down from the summertime bliss and back to reality.
Needless to say, my first few weeks as a first-year at St. Olaf have consisted of a wide range of emotions and experiences. Almost immediately upon sitting down in my biology
class, I was met with the harsh reality of being a college student. Pursuing an environmental studies degree meant I’d have to make it through countless increasingly harder courses just like this over the next four years. Since then, I’ve been telling everybody that I’m undecided about my major. However, none of my four classes are very similar in topic, and I genuinely enjoy them. I feel freer than ever to explore my academic interests even though I’ve had to accept that it’s completely normal to be an eighteen-year-old with absolutely no idea where to go in life!
Growing up in the Twin Cities, I’ve met several alumni, and in my entire life I have never heard a bad thing about St. Olaf — although I now know things may have been left out after almost being burned alive in the Mohn shower on my first night on the Hill. Besides the showers, I truly do see where they were coming from, especially in comparison to other universities I’ve looked at. Everyone I talked to before coming to St. Olaf emphasized the sense of community, which is something I have seen everywhere, even if I have not yet had the time to fully immerse myself in it. Between the First-Year Experience events, sporting games, walking around campus, and more club meetings than I can handle, I’ve noticed that everyone seems to have found their place and their people. However, above any academics or extra-curriculars, what I have gained the most so far at St. Olaf is a better understanding of myself. I’ve established a self-care routine like never before, and my favorite part of every day is the hour after dinner I set aside to walk through the fields and forests of the Natural Lands. I still need to find my balance here at St. Olaf, but I feel confident that I’ll be able to do so soon. I look forward to my next chapter of life up on the Hill!
Ann McMullen is from St. Paul, Minn. Their major is undeclared.