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Going North for College

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I’ll start by stating the obvious. Yes, I am choosing to go over a thousand miles away from home in order to go to college. This decision may seem out of the ordinary, but I am convinced that I’ve found the community for me.

Ashland, Wisconsin is a small town on the Chequamegon Bay, which is on the south shore of Lake Superior. At first (and second, and third) glance, Ashland doesn’t seem like a typical college town. But just off of Main Street lies Northland College, the school I’ve chosen, no matter how unconventional it seems.

Northland College is home to about 600 students, and is hidden in the north woods of Wisconsin. The closest “city”, Duluth, is an hour and a half away, and even that town is not much bigger than our own. I think the question I was asked most often was, “how did you find us?” and honestly, it may have been pure luck. I stumbled upon Northland after being invited to a STEM college search program that matched me with schools that held the most promise for my major. Northland is known as an “environmental liberal arts school”, and it turned out to be what I was looking for, with small classes (think 10-12 people), and hands on learning. After months of planning and haggling with my parents to convince them to look into it, I was finally accepted and able to set up a day to visit.

As soon as I found my way to the admissions office, I knew that I was in the right place. Of course this sounds cliche, but everyone I met seemed genuinely excited to show me around and were easy to approach. Thanks to my counselor and the visit staff, I had an overnight host waiting for me. She seemed almost as nervous as I was, so we made a good pair. After a quick walk through campus to show me what she deemed the most important, she led me to her dorm. I can’t say that I had a wild night or anything, but I was welcomed into her group of friends. We watched movies in her friend’s room for most of the night, but my favorite part of my stay was helping someone cook in the community kitchen. His girlfriend was visiting, so he wanted to be as romantic as one can be as a broke student. We all crammed in the kitchen to help him cook, and I felt instantly at home in the chaos of a bunch of students laughing and telling stories while making a meal.

After a surprisingly restful night, I was ready to sit in on classes. Before arriving, I had chosen two classes I was interested in so that I could witness firsthand the teaching environment. I was in Wildlife Ecology first, and was able to just sit and absorb the conversation. It truly was conversation. Although the students were taking notes, there was an easy connection between student and professor that allowed for an open discussion and shared theories. The professor even told about his own research and drew connections to the lesson. Even with all of this, the most memorable part of the class was at the end when the professor told us that he hoped we could enjoy the unseasonably warm weekend by getting outside. This was such a small gesture, but to me it meant that the passion for the outdoors is genuine throughout students and teachers.

My biology class was different, but held the same attitude that everyone cared about what was being said. The professor had brought in ferns from the greenhouse so that we could see living proof of what we were being told. Although these classes weren’t in labs or in the field, I got the sense that I would love those days all the more.

I later met with a biology professor, and learned in more detail the style of learning that Northland believes in. She told me about the sophomore student who was already a published author, about the trip another student took to Costa Rica in order to work in the forests there. Over and over I was reminded of the unique opportunity I had in front of me. It was all there, I just had to ask. Being a freshman doesn’t mean much; I can still be working and researching from my first days.

The next day was the official visit day, with about 15 other families. I continued to see the deep involvement and passion of everyone involved while the staff and even the president spoke. Luckily, my family was impressed with the tour, and I grew even more sure that this is the place for me. So much so, in fact, that at the end of the event, I enrolled.

The last days of my trip were spent exploring the area, including attending a polka party and a 10k across the frozen bay. Time and again I was amazed by the culture and community of Ashland and how closely linked Northland College is to it. I truly felt as if I was returning to somewhere I’d been before, or somewhere that I was just meant to be. It was so easy to immerse myself in the unique lifestyle that the area presented.

Although I’ve only just come back home, I can’t wait to go back to see the lake and the school in summer. I already have people on my side that I look forward to seeing. The distance may seem insane sometimes, even to me, but it’s been worth it so far. All of the admissions counselors appearing in your email aren’t lying; there really is somewhere that will fit you, even if it’s not what you expected. Leaving high school behind is an adventure for everyone, but I feel that going north will be the adventure of a lifetime.

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14 Comments

14 Responses to “Going North for College”

  1. Michael Miller on February 25th, 2017 7:45 am

    Rose, I am so very happy that you have found Northland to be your new home. We’ll all be looking for you in August. Let me know if I can help in any way. Very best regards, Mike Miller, Northland College President

    [Reply]

  2. Gina Kirsten on February 27th, 2017 10:48 am

    Hi Rose.
    Thank you for your beautiful words and welcome to the Northland College community! I just want to mention that I teach a course called “Food for Thought” which is an English course paired with a General Chemistry course called “The Chemistry of Food”. We have field trips to local farms, gardens, and orchards every Tuesday and it’s a really great way to get some of your general education credits completed first semester. I would love for a student with your passion and insight to be a part of this learning cohort. Even if you choose another schedule, I’d love to meet you when you arrive on campus. It’s students such as you who make my job a dream!
    Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make your move to this beautiful place!
    Gina

    [Reply]

  3. Paula Bonk on February 28th, 2017 6:35 am

    Welcome to Northland, Rose!
    Paula

    [Reply]

  4. Liz Windett on February 28th, 2017 8:59 am

    Hi Rose!
    I spoke with you at the Polka Party – I was working for Northland at the event, operating the photo booth 🙂
    It’s great to see your piece here about heading to Northland for college. I know you’ll have a great time! Looking forward to seeing you on campus in the fall! It is the most beautiful place in autumn…so excited for you.
    Best to you and your family,
    Liz

    [Reply]

  5. Stuart Schmidt on February 28th, 2017 12:06 pm

    Welcome to the Northland family, Rose! I truly hope that when you arrive next fall, you find that this is truly your home for a while, both at the college and on the beautiful lake. As a graduating senior, reading your excitement for your upcoming journeys makes me relive mine, and I hope that spirit continues to guide you. Best wishes to you!

    Stuart Schmidt ’17

    [Reply]

  6. Lindsey Droste on February 28th, 2017 12:16 pm

    Rose,
    I hope you enjoy northland! I graduated from there and my peers thought I was a little crazy leaving arkansas to go to wi! The sciences are great there, and your description of classes is the way they are conducted everyday, in every subject!

    Best wishes,

    Lindsey

    [Reply]

  7. Jim Quinn class of 1973 on February 28th, 2017 12:38 pm

    Rose
    You have made a wonderful choice. Northland is such a super place to learn and grow. You start as a student, but become a member of the N.C. family. I am on the Alumni Board, so I will probably run into you sometime.

    [Reply]

  8. Jackie on February 28th, 2017 12:58 pm

    Hi Rose!

    We’re all thrilled to hear how much you enjoyed your visit and look forward to welcoming you and your family to the Northland family. 🙂
    I work with Northland alumni from all over the world and I can say honestly that your account of visiting Northland was spot on with memories many of us have. You will do well here.

    Shine on,

    Jackie

    [Reply]

  9. Jake Oster on February 28th, 2017 1:17 pm

    As an outgoing senior I wish you the best of luck and opportunity for success at your new home! While Northland will positively impact you, always be looking for the chances to make the campus even better. Never pass up a moment to create change, as this is the perfect sized college to do so. Research, play new sports, indulge yourself in the hikes in the area, and most of all become a true part of the Northland family.

    Good luck, and great choice.

    Jake
    Class of 2017

    [Reply]

  10. Samuel D. Polonetzky, p.e. on February 28th, 2017 1:27 pm

    Hello Rose,

    Welcome to our Northland College family. It sounds like you belong. I remember my my visit to Northland. It was an 11 1/2 hour trip in a Chicago Northwestern Ry. train., overnight at the New Knight Hotel, then meeting the admissions and physics depts. and a flight into O’hare Airport in a twin Beech 18. That was in the summer of 1967 and I have been a Lumberjack ever since.

    Welcome & Good Luck

    Sam Polonetzky, B.Sc., Northland College Class of 1970
    and member of the Northand College Alumni Board.

    [Reply]

  11. Elise on February 28th, 2017 2:52 pm

    Rose,
    Beautifully said! From one alum to a future one- welcome and enjoy! My time at Northland was truly the best of my life! Soak it up, explore, and grow. The experience is what you make it. The Northwoods will become home sooner than you can imagine!
    All my best!

    [Reply]

  12. Stu Goldman on February 28th, 2017 5:53 pm

    Hi Rose,
    Also being in the 1000 mile club, Peterborough in Southern NH, I never had the thrill of visiting NC, before I was accepted, enrolled and arrived in Ashland in September 1965. It was an interesting and long term starting of my life at and with Northland College which still goes on. I graduated from several other universities, as my journey has progressed, (don’t forget, with your NC degree and experience here, there are many paths to take and CHANGE, if you wish!), and hope you will leave a part of you after you graduate. I have the pleasure of being the longested serving NC Alumni Board member, 29 years, and hope you’ll devote time in keeping the NC of the future to survive (note I’m asking you to enjoy you next four or five years, but asking you to continue on with the Alumni Board!).
    Enjoy and hope to see you around!
    Stu BS Bus Admin ’69

    [Reply]

    Stu Goldman Reply:

    NOT A TYPIST and can’t use spell correction, but I speak from my HEART about NC and my fellow NC relationships!!
    Stu

    [Reply]

  13. Star on February 28th, 2017 6:36 pm

    Rose,
    I too traveled a thousand + miles for my Northland experience. One that I hope you will enjoy as much as I did. This Florida big city girl loved the Northland community. Rich with experiences. Enjoy.
    Class of 1987!

    [Reply]

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