By Guest Columnist Katie Musick ’08 for the Alumni Enewsletter
I visited my parents’ house recently—sneaking in a trip back to the Midwest before beginning a new job—and stumbled upon my dad’s hat collection. For each college or university that I attended, I gifted my dad a hat. While my post-nominal title is still a combination of a BA and BS, that stack is four hats high: a large state school in a mountainous college town, a mid-sized private school in a large metropolis, online courses taken in the comfort of my own home, and Northland College on the shore of beautiful Lake Superior.
To some that might seem like a sign of an inability to commit—the typical journey of a millennial—but for this college hopper, it simply is a timeline of how long it took me to find the sense of place that is the Northwoods.
My first hop out of high school was 1,100 miles from home to a large state school and an east coast culture that was new and exciting. While a great experience, there was a je ne sais quoi missing. I knew I needed something more, but did not know quite what that something was.
After three semesters, I hopped five hundred miles south to a moderately sized private school in our nation’s capitol to continue my great adventure. It was here that I found students filled with passion—passion for their studies, passion for politics, passion for the environment, overall infectious passion. That was it! I had found it! Sort of.
So inspired by those around me, I withdrew from school after a semester and hopped eight hundred miles west to serve with AmeriCorps for the following school year. I wanted to change the world, give back, contribute and make a difference. During my time with AmeriCorps I found the perfect blend of passion and community—a culture I knew could exist in education, and a culture that I eventually found at Northland.
After completing my year of service, I hopped seven hundred miles north to Northland College. Northland was truly a unique experience, and one I wish I had found a few years earlier. As a transfer student (a few times over), I was welcomed immediately and thoroughly. Although small and tight-knit, I easily integrated into the community, joined the basketball and cross country teams, became a senator for NCSA.
I learned and contributed to the amazing traditions and antics that make Northland what it is—a college full of passionate students that fight for what they believe in, a college that pushes you to be the best at whatever it is you want to be, a culture that makes you curious, empathetic, and compassionate, and a community that teaches you that it is more than OK to be yourself. I have Northland to thank for my confidence, for my self-esteem, for my friends, for my desire to learn and to always ask questions.
Since graduation, I have hopped two thousand miles west, returned to school to complete a post-baccalaureate degree, and transitioned into the field of software development. Why would someone with a degree in Peace Studies think they can succeed in the field of computer science? Because the professors and students at Northland College taught me that I can, as cliché as it sounds, do anything.
Picking up each one of my dad’s hats brought back such great memories representing so many lessons learned, friendships made, and experiences had. While all contributed greatly to the person I am today, I have the orange and blue to thank the most. “Think differently, live differently” has been something that I think about often, and a mentality to which I owe a great deal of my success. These days when I get homesick, I visit nearby Northland alumni. Regardless of graduation year, they are my family.