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October 28, 2009

Helena Thompson ’11

I had never seen the stars until I came to Oberlin.

Dallas, Texas is the eighth largest city in the United States, you see. With that, comes twenty-four hours per day of bright lights, pollution, and noise...and while smog makes for beautiful sunsets, the night skies are for the most part obscured by these inescapable accessories of urban life. Dallas residents are willing to trade their telescopes and treehouses for pickup trucks and traffic - and that's the way most of them like it. Cities are full of energy, productivity, and possibility; being stuck on a highway for forty-five minutes every morning means that you're building hope for the future.

This is where I grew up.


Finding out I had been accepted to Oberlin still sticks out in my mind as one of the most joyful experiences I can remember. Although I was ridiculously excited to matriculate in the fall, a little voice still cried out from the back of my mind every time I thought about my new home away from home, saying, HELENA. You're moving to a cornfield in a few months. What are you going to DO with yourself?

With change, comes trepidation. Even my first-choice school gave me a few anxious shivers back in the summer of 2007, but then it came time for me to pack up 18 years of my Texan life and hit the road. Three days, ten mix CDs, and probably five hundred bottles of Diet Coke later, I began to settle down in this land that's round on both sides and high in the middle. Hey, Oberlin. Nice to meet you.


It was the second night of my first-year orientation - a week that, in retrospect, I dubbed Camp Oberlin due to its lack of real obligations and its wealth of community-building exercises. A few new friends and I decided that it would be a good idea to spend that particularly warm summer evening out-of-doors and communing with nature, so we set out on foot for an Oberlin walking adventure. Landmarks were pointed out ("Ooh, there's Dascomb!" "I think professors live in these houses!" "Wow, a statue!") and jokes were told ("So, C, E-flat, and G walked into a bar...") - all in all, a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Then, all of a sudden, one of my traveling partners said, "Oh. My. God. Guys, look up."

What happened next can barely be described with words. I stood in awe of the majesty that had been set before me - a midnight blue sky overflowing with stars. At home, I would have been lucky to see the Little Dipper; now, I could point out constellations that I had only previously read about in textbooks and sentimental New York Times editorials. We ended our walk at this point, spending the next couple of hours (or three, or ten - I can't really remember) lying in the street, silently taking in this new gift - one blink at a time.


I don't really spend as much time with that particular group of adventurers as I'd like to anymore - but while the weather cooperates, I try and drag as many new people out to my front lawn to lie on blankets and stargaze with me. My Monday night this week was shared with three other delightful co-opers on the grass in front of Keep Cottage marveling at the magic that a clear Oberlin evening can bring. It's the little things like this that made me fall in love with Oberlin in the first place...and it's these same little things that keep me coming back for more year after year. So, when I need a reminder of why I chose to leave the city for the cornfields, all I have to do is look up. The stars'll tell me.

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