Am I (Finally) in the Right Place?

By Sydney Nolan on June 26, 2013
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Macalester College, St. Paul, MN • Hometown: Plymouth, MN

When people ask me what year I am at Macalester, I never know what to say. I feel a bit like an alien: Even though I’m a sophomore, it’s my first year on campus. I spent freshman year eight hours away at a different university.

Maybe it’s this dual experience that makes me constantly question whether I made the “right” decision about school. I know what I want to do once I graduate; I know doing the kind of work I have in mind makes me happy, and I know what kind of degree I need to get me there. I’m just never 100 percent sure I’m in the right place to work toward said degree.

I spent my freshman year at the University of Missouri-Columbia, or Mizzou, as it’s lovingly called. Mizzou is a great school with stellar professors and tons of resources. I really enjoyed certain things about being at a large state school.

Several factors led to switch
At Mizzou, the first journalism school in the world, I knew I was getting a cutting-edge journalism education. Being at a large state school also meant a lot of top-notch speakers and tons of cool events. During my time there, I heard people like comedian Seth Meyers speak, watched some of the best documentaries I’ve seen to date screened as part of an annual film fest, and listened to cool bands like Fitz and the Tantrums perform on campus.

While I loved taking advantage of the opportunities that came my way as a Mizzou tiger, there were definitely things that I wasn’t as thrilled with. Mizzou is home to a large fraternity and sorority culture, something I’ve never been interested in being a part of. Campus was also HUGE, meaning it was hard for me to meet and connect with people. I’d hit it off with someone in class, and never see them outside of it.

It was also difficult to stand out from the crowd with so many people. Many of my classes had well over 200 students, meaning you weren’t expected to do much but take lecture notes for 50 minutes, do well on two or three Scantron exams, and hopefully receive a good grade at the end of the semester.

All of these factors, along with a few other pressures, resulted in me applying to Macalester College, the school I started at this fall as a transfer student. Being at Mac is definitely an adjustment. The opportunities that either didn’t exist at Mizzou or that would have been way tougher to take advantage of I am liking a lot so far, and there are things I miss from last year.

I feel like it’s still too early for me to know that I’m totally in the right place, though. Transitions take time, and I’m still finding my footing on a new campus that’s drastically different than the one I came from.

Not feeling ‘absolutely amazing’ about choice of either school
Part of me feels as if it’s not so much the school, but the nature of academia and the structure and expectations that come with any post-secondary institution that make me constantly wonder why I don’t feel absolutely amazing about my choice of either school.

I can’t imagine doing anything but journalism and communications at this point, but I don’t necessarily agree with the notion that a four-year degree is essentially required for a job in this field. I seriously doubt a two-hour class on classical philosophy is really ever going to impact me in the grand scheme of things.

I’ll always wonder if I made the right decision in switching, but for now, I’ll take what I can from classes and other experiences to make the most of these next three years.


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Sydney Nolan

Sydney Nolan

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