Macalester students know what it feels like to be on campus. A murmur of animated conversation among peers, a lot of bare feet and the activities of student organizations are all commonplace during the academic year. But when you take the majority of the student body away from campus, what is left is a beautiful campus and a few students that opted to enjoy the Twin Cities’ many opportunities and balmy weather.
One student that elected to stay on campus was Cami Garcia-Flahaut ’16. Garcia-Flahaut interned with Minnesota Campaign For Advocacy Now (MinnCAN), which works to close the achievement gap in the Twin Cities and Minnesota as a whole. According to Garcia-Flahaut, “It was really calm and relaxed. It was really nice to be able to walk around without huge groups of people… You definitely felt that there was no school. [It was a] totally different dynamic.” Garcia-Flahaut said that living in St. Paul opened a level of freedom so that, “I got a lot more comfortable being off campus. I think [my] first year I spent the whole time on Grand Avenue, and now I’ll take a bus away because it’s nice to have a separation of space.” Garcia-Flahaut continued, “I got really close to the students living on campus… we are all busy doing stuff from nine to five, but after that we all would hang out. But it was really relaxed, even the campus jobs were relaxed, which was nice.”
Garcia-Flahaut, speaking as a senior, said, “It was a really great experience, we don’t know where a lot of us are going next year and it was really nice to have a summer bonding and just being around Macalester students while not studying at Macalester.”
Jina Park ’18 was a summer housing residents’ assistant (RA) and worked as an intern for a start-up company in Minneapolis. Park said, “I was able to meet new people. I feel like a lot of people from different social groups are by themselves, it gave more opportunities to meet people and branch out [socially].”
Garcia-Flahaut found having a home off-campus was peaceful. “It’s nice to have your own space off-campus. In my experience, your stress levels seem to go down when you’re not immersed in the school environment. It’s nice to have a work and home space,” said Garcia-Flahaut. Similarly, Michael Gutierrez ’19 lived near campus this summer while he worked on campus as a grounds staff member. On his experience of living alone during the summer, Gutierrez said,“There’s a sense of responsibility that comes with it. By the end of the summer, making a nice meal for yourself feels good.”
Since returning to living on campus, Gutierrez notes that one of the most significant differences since the onset of the semester is that,“With more students on campus I do the same things [I did during the summer] but now I’m accompanied by two or three or four people, except when I’m in the library. That’s probably why I spend a lot of time in the library [now]”.
Living on and near Macalester’s campus also offers many opportunities to explore the Twin Cities without the pressure of an academic class load. “I explore the Twin Cities a lot more, I really liked all the summer festivals I went to and going to lakes and the Mississippi River,” Park said. She continued, “I spent more time doing things that I loved [and] there wasn’t any guilt because I didn’t have tests and homework to do.” Park advises students living on campus next summer to, “Take advantage of the things in the summer, [because there are] opportunities that you wouldn’t do because of all of the school work.” Living in the Twin Cities without the burden of academics opens up a door to the city most students are not privy to. Macalester is seated in a naturally beautiful and lively area that is often overlooked. If students find themselves in the cities during the summer, take advantage of it. The course load of Macalester and safe familiarity of Grand Avenue and Summit keep many students close, but branching away from the sanctuary campus provides from the wider community is worth it.