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Changing at Carleton

McKenna reflects on some of the ways she's changed while at Carleton.

McKenna reflects on some of the ways she's changed while at Carleton.

Because I’ve been living at home for several months, I’ve had ample time and opportunity to consider how exactly I’ve changed in my two years at Carleton. My experiences are definitely not universal, but this reflection brings to light several of the ways Carleton has shaped me, both personally and professionally. 


I had no idea of what I wanted to do with my life in high school. To be honest, I don’t really think anyone has that figured out by age 18. My plan had been to figure all that out later, and I focused on finding a place where I could do just that.

Carleton has allowed me to explore areas I was vaguely interested in before coming to college, like Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies or Computer Science. But it has also challenged me to try things I’d never considered — Russian is a prime example of that. 

In the end, I decided to dedicate myself to two interests: Psychology and Russian. I’ve known I was interested in Psychology since middle school, so that wasn’t too surprising a decision. However, my interest in Russian language and culture is a new phenomenon. So, in a way, through my choice of majors I’ve embraced both something old and something new.

Pelmeni/Russian Dumplings
After taking a course on Russian food, I started learning to cook as well! These are Russian dumplings called pelmeni (пельмени).

Career Exploration

Along with my choice of majors, my career is something I kind of tabled during high school. It’s not that I wasn’t looking to see what I wanted to do, but that I felt I needed more time to make an informed decision. In the meantime, I focused on doing things I genuinely enjoyed and building some widely applicable skills.

I’m really glad I waited. Taking Russian has opened my eyes to a wide range of career paths that cater to my desire to develop a more international perspective. Carleton’s Alumni Directory is available to current students. I’ve used it a lot this summer to contact graduates employed in fields I’m interested in, to get a sense of what it’s like work in these fields. I still don’t have a particularly strict view of what my professional life will look like. But I have some ideas and am feeling a lot better about my decisions now!


I don’t know if it’s even possible, but I swear I’ve become even more outgoing at Carleton. I just love the people here! Now, I spend a lot more time working with others. We do partner/group projects or sometimes form informal study groups. I’ve grown to rely on some of these less structured academic support systems. My friends and I also often get meals together. This isn’t a particularly unique form of socialization at Carleton. My friend Matthew also spends a lot of his time eating with friends.

McKenna and friends eating in the Mini Bald Spot
During the fall and spring, we love taking our meals outside to eat on the Mini Bald Spot! (photo taken prior to March 2020)

Style and Self Expression

Okay, this change maybe isn’t quite as serious as the others, but it definitely amused me. In high school, I was totally a jeans girl. Now, I’m more often in leggings and a sweater, especially during the winter. My wardrobe also, unsurprisingly, contains a lot more jackets, coats, and sweatshirts. Pro tip: invest in a good coat, some gloves, and winter boots before it starts snowing.

McKenna in the snow outside LDC
The paths are clear, but sometimes I like to explore the snow drifts!

While I’ve definitely kept the same color scheme, I’ve gone further with it and dyed my hair! I wanted to try something new with my hair for a while. At Carleton, I felt fully supported to make this change. I absolutely loved it!

McKenna's red hair
PS: I went to a salon right in Northfield to get this done!


I’ve loved riding horses for a long time but I had to stop before high school. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s a lot easier to find places to ride in southern Minnesota rather than northern Virginia. One of the first things I did on campus was sign up for the Equestrian Team’s email list and it’s become a significant part of my life on campus.

A horse walking through a stream
It feels amazing to get outside in the beautiful Minnesota weather on horseback.

In high school, I spent most of my time in the theater, preparing for a performance or doing some tech work. I’d started to get into lighting during my senior year, but never as a designer. During my first year at Carleton, I started designing lights for student dance performances with the help and guidance of an upperclassman. I discovered a passion for dance lighting, and lighting design in general, that I never would have without her help. Already, my skills have improved significantly and I’ve had some great opportunities!

McKenna and a friend standing on Little Nourse stage.
One of my friends is a sound designer, so it’s really fun when we work together on shows! (photo taken prior to March 2020)

College can absolutely change people, but I wouldn’t be afraid of that.  My college experience has helped me expand my horizons and increased my self-confidence.  It’s been a great time, and I’m so glad I still have another two years to go!

McKenna is a Russian and Psychology double major who is suffering from major Minnesota-withdrawal (her favorite season is, in fact, winter). On campus, she’s often designing lights for a student performance, speaking Russian in Parish house, or grabbing a meal with friends. She’s also a proud member of the Carleton Equestrian Team and is currently playing Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in her free time. Meet the other bloggers!