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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Your life extends far beyond the boundaries of campus

<n Carleton’s campus you can feel like the world only extends from the Rec Center to the Weitz. These buildings delineate the area where we spend the majority of our days, walking back and forth between classes, activities, and meetings with friends and peers.

In many ways, the fact that it takes less than ten minutes to walk anywhere on campus is a blessing. Sometimes, however, it feels like we forget that our college is located in a city, a place that exists outside of our higher-education world.

Undoubtedly, the presence of two liberal arts colleges in Northfield influences the city of Northfield and vice versa. Yet I feel that it’s easier for us college students to forget that there are people who we are living among and that we are operating in a world that is much larger than the distance from the Rec to the Weitz.

One way that I have attempted to get myself out of that small-scale mindset is to volunteer. I appreciate the fact that we have the Center for Community and Civic Engagement to give us Carleton students the opportunity to engage with the community that lives right next to, and around, us.

I volunteered with the Tutoring Hotline for my first two years of Carleton, and it has been one of my most rewarding experiences.
At first, I worked with a high school student on AP Calculus. I had just taken the same course a year ago, and I thought it couldn’t be that hard to remember everything I had learned. I was wrong.

Even still, it was fun to work alongside the student, help her figure out problems that puzzled me as well, and hear about her week. As a first year college student, her high school world didn’t seem that far away from my experience, and I liked learning what it was like to grow up in Northfield.

When she no longer needed my help, the next student I was paired with was in elementary school. She was facing some educational struggles and her parents wanted someone to work with her on reading and her math homework. She was a bright kid who seriously loved animals, her Heeleys shoes, and playing in the park. We did our work, but we built a relationship, too.

From our conversations, I got to learn about the life of a Northfield elementary school student. She was always ready to tell me about the exciting things to do in Northfield each weekend: slumber parties with friends, riding bikes around the town, seeing albino squirrels.
Working with these students reminded me each week that life doesn’t run on ten-week terms for everyone. In partnering with these kids, I was able to take a break from my own self-focused world of classes, homework, activities, and devote myself to someone else. Picking out picture books from the library became a highlight of my week, and playing games of eye spy to end an hour of working through those books was a great joy. Working with my elementary school student was definitely an exercise in patience, but more often than not it was a chance to forget myself and learn with someone else.

It seems that Carleton’s terms, and Carleton’s culture in general, encourage us to think about all the things we have to do and makes giving our time and ourselves to others optional.

Growing up, my mom always encouraged me to give to others. She taught me that we should try to think outside of ourselves and see what we can do to contribute to our communities.

Now that my elementary school student has moved, I have felt the loss of our weekly meetings. Our relationship became important to me; I loved seeing her succeed with reading a book, and even when she didn’t want to read all of the words, we’d have a negotiation and she’d still try. As we spent time together, I could tell that it was important for her to have time to practice her reading skills, but it was equally important for her to have a role model and friend she could ask questions of and count on meeting every week.

While I haven’t worked with another student yet, I carry the lessons I learned from our relationship with me. As I look forward to going abroad next term, I am even more strongly confronted by the fact that our campus is small. I don’t know yet how I plan on engaging with the larger community where I’ll be studying abroad, but I hope I can do so in some small way, whether that’s striking up conversation with my hostel manager or becoming a regular at a coffee shop.

The point, to me, anyways, is to remember to look up and around, and see what I can learn from others and give to others, even if it’s something as small as a conversation. 

I would encourage everyone to engage with the Northfield community, whether with students or in any other way. It’s important to me to remember that a world outside of my classes and activities exists and to look outside of that smaller world to support others, and perhaps it will be important to you, too.

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