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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Suburban quirk

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When I tell people I go to Carleton, usually the first thing they ask is “Where is that again?” When I tell them that Carleton is in Northfield, Minnesota, and that Northfield is about forty five minutes from the Twin Cities, and that yes Minneapolis is one of those, and yes it is very cold there, they usually take on an attitude of pity. “Oh I’m so sorry,” they say. “It must be hard being so isolated.”

Usually I just mumble an agreement with the person I’m talking to and gloss over their assumption because I don’t want to start an argument. Now, though, I’m writing an opinion piece, and my job is to state my opinion, so I’m going to come out and say it: I disagree.

Personally, having lived in a big city my whole life, I was excited to come to Northfield and experience life in a place with only one Starbucks. Aside from this personal predilection to the small-town life, however, I’ve found that the relative isolation of Northfield serves also to strengthen Carleton’s campus and provide it with its own individual identity.

Much of Carleton’s quirk is supported, if not supplied by, Northfield. And without the town, Carleton would lose many unique aspects. The townies here are proud of Carleton (hence motto “Cows, Colleges, and Contentment”), and they embrace the quirky college-town atmosphere. Where would Friday Flowers be if not for Forget-Me-Not Florists?

The smallness of Northfield, then, allows Carleton to connect with and be ingrained in the surrounding community, which encourages the college’s individualism. If Carleton were swallowed up in a large city, it would most likely be overwhelmed by more mainstream industrialized values.

Additionally, because students are not drawn off-campus by the lures present of the big city, our campus is strengthened because energy is instead invested in on-campus activities. Instead of going to a concert or show in “the city,” students must now create their own concerts and shows at Carleton, strengthening campus activities and the cohesion of the student body.

Some, however, would say that our isolation puts students at a disadvantage because it distances them from internship opportunities at large corporations that reside in the cities. The Career Center, however, has done a good job of mitigating this. We joke about how the Career Center is “thirsty AF,” which is true, but actually very helpful in combating small-town isolation that puts us at a disadvantage. From what I’ve seen, the Career Center has been very purposeful in making themselves known at Carleton and connecting students with employers in big cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul to help breach the geographical gap.

And, if we’re really being honest, Northfield is not actually that small. It’s not New York, but it’s not the frigid wastelands of Mars either. I mean, we have a Target and a Cub Foods. That has to count for something, right? In all seriousness, though, Northfield is a pretty self-sustaining community – it doesn’t have to look to other towns for a hospital, school, or newspaper (although in that regard it sometimes has to look to Carleton). Northfield isn’t a one-horse-town. It’s more like five-or-six-horses. And all those horses are pretty great.

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