Skip to main content

The Other Side of the Tracks: Interactions with St. Olaf

Tate takes us through some of the many ways Carleton interacts with our sister school, St. Olaf.

Tate takes us through some of the many ways Carleton interacts with our sister school, St. Olaf.


You may have heard that Northfield, MN has two colleges: Carleton and St. Olaf. In fact, that’s the whole reason I initially toured Carleton when I was searching for schools. My mom saw a town, just two hours from where we lived, where we could knock out two college tours in one day. While I (obviously) ended up at Carleton, I was always interested in how the colleges might interact with each other. And I found that our relationship is more than just our sports rivalry. So, in this blog post, I’ll be taking you all through just some of the ways that Carleton and St. Olaf interact with one another.

The Food

First off, it’s sort of a right of passage to get food at a St. Olaf venue. Each week, one of your meal swipes can be used at one of St. Olaf’s dining halls. You can even use Schillers (our unit of currency on our student IDs) at their cafes! The opportunity for a change of scenery more than makes up for the walk across town. The grass is always greener on the other side, of course. Students from each school seem to think the other school’s dining hall food is better than their own. I haven’t yet made my way over to a St. Olaf dining hall yet, so I’ll leave it up to debate!

The Resources

When I talk about how Carleton and St. Olaf interact, I always like to highlight our library systems. Each school makes their respective library’s resources available to the other. So, for example, when you search Carleton’s Gould Library databases, you’ll also get results for books and resources at St. Olaf’s Rolvaag Library. I’ve found this particularly useful for checking out books on music. St. Olaf has got a great music department (more on that later), and they’ve got a lot of great music resources at their disposal! This past term, I checked out two books from their system. I was able to request them virtually and have them delivered to the front desk at Gould Library. And because St. Olaf is just about a mile away, the books got to me really quickly!

Campus and downtown Northfield after the snow
Gould Library is accessible to both Carleton and St. Olaf students.

The Courses

Because of our proximity, some students from each school end up taking classes at the other. The courses you take have to be ones that aren’t offered at your own school, though. So generally, the language courses are the most popular courses to take, as St. Olaf offers some languages that we don’t, and vice versa.

You may be wondering how this works when St. Olaf uses a semester calendar and Carleton uses a trimester calendar. Well, fear not! This inter-registration is really accessible because of Carleton’s six-week long winter break. After the first trimester of the year, Carleton takes our winter break, which runs from late November through early January. This means you can take a semester-long course without having to worry about running into other terms. The course just starts slightly earlier than one from Carleton and reaches a bit into your winter break!

The Arts

Carleton Chamber Choir and St. Olaf Chamber Singers perform Fern Hill by John Corgliano
Carleton Chamber Choir and St. Olaf Chamber Singers perform Fern Hill by John Corgliano at St. Olaf’s Boe Memorial Chapel for their joint concert.

My favorite aspect of the interaction between the two schools is our ability to collaborate on artistic projects. St. Olaf is an arts powerhouse, and working with them has had some great results, although our interactions in this capacity have been a bit sparse. Carleton’s Chamber Choir recently collaborated with the St. Olaf Chamber Singers on a concert, even singing together on John Corgliano’s masterwork Fern Hill. It was one of my favorite choral pieces I’ve ever performed, and it was really rewarding to be singing with another choir, especially after having restrictions these past two years.

I’ve only mentioned a few ways that Carleton and St. Olaf interact, but there are many more to explore and discover! I’m always one for collaboration, so I love having a campus so close to Carleton that we have the ability to engage with in so many different ways. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!


Tate (he/him) is a senior hailing from Colfax, WI (just two hours east of Carleton). He is double majoring in Linguistics and Music and minoring in Cognitive Science. Outside of academics, he sings in Carleton Choir, Chamber Choir, and Exit 69 A Cappella, serves on the Experimental Theater Board, and DJs for KRLX. He also founded Off The Cuff, Carleton’s storytelling organization. When he’s not occupied by these activities, he enjoys hiking in the Arb, attending screenings in the Weitz cinema, and telling anyone who will listen about ridiculous linguistic example sentences. Meet the other bloggers!