A Day in the Life at University of Minnesota

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Kelly received her Bachelor’s degree in English from  University of Minnesota. She is currently a tutor in St. Louis specializing in essay editing tutoring, study skills tutoring, and writing tutoring, among other subjects. See what she had to say about her experience at University of Minnesota:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or rural is the campus? Did you feel safe on campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Kelly: University of Minnesota is an urban campus with a small college town feel to it. Many people commute to campus from the suburbs and other areas of the city, but there is a rich on-campus living community and plenty of amenities immediately surrounding campus, like restaurants, coffee shops, book stores, fast food, groceries, etc. University of Minnesota is very large, and it straddles the east and west banks of the Mississippi. A portion of the campus is in Saint Paul, but there is an extensive and efficient shuttle system that is free for students and really easy to use. Campus is also very bike friendly, and the city bus system running to and from campus to other parts of the two cities is also easy to use. With such a large student body, parking can be a problem, but if you don’t mind walking 30-40 minutes for class, there is free parking in the neighborhoods north of campus (though that can be very undesirable in the winter). Speaking of winter, there is an extensive tunnel system below the main East Bank part of campus that can make it possible to get across campus without being outside.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Kelly: This depends on your major and the classes you’re in. There are a lot of huge lecture classes, but most have small discussion or lab sections that meet once a week. These are led by a teaching assistant (TA). In these cases, you’ll get to know your TA pretty well, and TAs are usually available in office hours and through email, but it’ll take a bit of extra work and persistence to get to know your professor. Academic advisers can be difficult to form a strong relationship with if you don’t meet with them often, because they advise a large number of students. But if you do the work to show your face they’ll get to know you really well, and they’ll be able to help you better navigate through the often very impersonal academic system.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Kelly: I had a great dorm experience. I became close friends with most of the people living on my floor and the floors immediately above and below me, and they’ve remained my closest friends throughout college and in the years since. It can be hard to meet people at University of Minnesota because of how large your classes are and just how big the campus community is, but the dorms do a great job of introducing students to that community. I thought the dorm food was wonderful, but word on the street is that my dorm (Sanford Hall) had the best dorm food on campus. The dorm rooms are very small, but there were enough common areas and other places to hang out on campus that it was manageable.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Kelly: University of Minnesota is pretty strong in both the sciences and the humanities, though I got the impression that the sciences are better supported because of the funding those programs bring in. I studied English and Art History because I found them most interesting. I had a much better experience in my English classes, though, because they were much smaller and were discussion-based. I enjoyed the intimacy of this learning experience, since all of my other classes (the science requirements and even the Art History classes) were held in giant lecture halls with hundreds of students.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Kelly: Greek life is very strong at University of Minnesota, but it didn’t play a significant role in my experience. I found friends through dorm life and through special interests. Getting involved in things you care about (theater, music, special causes or charities, intramural sports, etc.) is a great way to make lifelong friends, and there are a ton of opportunities for this kind of thing on campus. If you commute to campus, making friends can be very difficult, but living in the dorms (at least for freshman year) is a guaranteed way to meet a lot of great people.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Kelly: During peak hours, the student union is very crowded. It’s a great place to meet friends and get a bite to eat, but if you want something quieter or with more guaranteed seating, you’ll want to seek out corners of the union or seating areas in other buildings where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic. There are a lot of these places, and you’ll definitely find your favorite if you just go exploring. The libraries can be crowded, but again, the top or bottom floors are usually quieter, and there are plenty of places out of the way that people don’t generally know about. I had many refuges on campus where I could study for hours at a time without seeing another person. There are also a lot of coffee shops just outside of campus that are great for studying or meeting friends.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Kelly: Dinkytown, directly north of campus, is a great little college town with everything you need – coffee shops, restaurants, music venues, etc. I was never without something fun to do with friends. The music scene in particular is very strong both around campus and in Minneapolis in general. There’s a rich arts scene in Minneapolis and, again, great restaurants and other things to do, but there are many opportunities for this in and around campus, as well. For example, the campus orchestra has free concerts, and the theater program has free plays and student showcases. The campus art museum is also excellent.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Kelly: As I’ve said, the student body is huge, but there are plenty of niche groups on campus, so that makes it easy for you to find people with the same interests as you. You also meet a ton of people who are very different from yourself, which I thought was the best part of the large campus experience. My college life was enriched by people from different classes, ethnicities, and social backgrounds, who I know I never would have gotten the chance to meet at a smaller university.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Kelly: While at University of Minnesota, I studied abroad twice – a semester in London and a May session (one month) in Florence. The May study abroad classes are awesome because they’re cheaper than the semester-long experiences, and they’re a lot more intimate – you have one or two teachers who accompany you, and generally about 30 classmates who travel with you. This was another great way to make lifelong friends and learn and experience a great deal in such a short amount of time. I spent every single day that May walking all around Florence, Rome, and other Italian cities, learning about the Renaissance and seeing the sights. I didn’t have much money at the time, and my mom got mad at me because I couldn’t afford to call her every day while I was there, but it was such an amazing experience, and I’m so glad for all the opportunities University of Minnesota provided for me!

Check out Kelly’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.