Oberlin Blogs

All right, let's do this one last time: My "Why Oberlin?" and the time I’ve spent here so far.

October 8, 2023

Evan Hamilton ’26

On the Style

Hello there, everyone. Have you all seen the movie Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse? Well if not, know that it's an excellent movie with an unfortunately frustrating ending. The quote following this sentence is from the movie, and this blog is written in the style of things they say in the movie, or as we’d write in a piece of music, it is “a la Across the Spider-Verse”—the quote:

“All right, let’s do this one last time.”

The Overview

All right, let’s do this one last time. My name is Evan Hamilton. When I was fifteen years old I was bitten—sorry, struck—by a spark of passion. I decided I wanted to be a writer. I kept myself busy through the duration of high school and hardly had time for the passion I wanted to follow. But when it came time for me to pick a college, I decided that studying writing would be the perfect thing to do so I could become a skilled enough author to tell the stories I wanted to share. Together with my mom, I searched for colleges with the best programs in creative writing. As you can probably guess, Oberlin is one such school known for its specific creative writing degree. I applied to Oberlin as one among many schools, but still I was ecstatic when I was accepted. Oberlin was a prestigious school for me to attend, coming from my public-school background. I (being an overachiever and often an unabashed perfectionist) was overjoyed to be accepted for that reason alone. I would soon discover, though, that there were myriad reasons for me to attend Oberlin. I began researching and learned about many of them before arriving: the connections to the conservatory where I could continue my interest in music, the student theatre opportunities, the numerous campus publications, the communal residential living experience, and the beautiful buildings on campus, just to start. I researched these things, but I never visited Oberlin during my college search process. I went to all manner of virtual info sessions and tours. But in the end, I truly knew very little about the place where one person can change the world before I decided to matriculate. So I was lucky, in a way, that there ended up being plentiful connections on campus to help me feel at home. 

For over a year now, I’ve been a student at the one and only Oberlin College. I’ve taken classes on building worlds and weaving characters. I’ve improved my skills speaking in Spanish and I’ve been through the wringer and spun about its many facets of stress studying for exams chock full of chemical equations. I’ve made a new friend group of people who are a lot like me—only from across the country. I’ve come a long way from my suburban hometown of Oregon City, though I still love dearly everything I hold with me from there. Now, in my second year at Oberlin, I’m looking forward to enjoying and making the most out of my time more than ever. Because who wouldn’t be? There may be many colleges, but there’s only one Oberlin.

The Journey

Of course, my journey through my time at Oberlin hasn’t always been easy. Starting with my first few weeks attending, there were things that were challenging, and things I simply remained quite uncertain about. From the moment I left my little sister, who came along with my mom and me to Ohio and was sobbing into my chest just before we parted, I was on my own (my mom left with my sister too, and they went away to the airport). I had never lived on my own before coming to college. I had never even had to do my own laundry. During my first week at Oberlin, I moved into Dascomb dorm and met my roommate, who had come to the school from across the world in China. I missed home early on, the very thickness of Ohio’s humid air separating me from the more familiar Oregon climate (though I’m sure my roommate's homesickness was worse!). I was relieved, though, having not seen Oberlin’s campus in person before I arrived, to find that the college wasn’t situated in a barren cornfield (which is more than I could say of the University of Iowa, which I did get a chance to tour). The trees I’d viewed on my computer screen were no illusions. They dotted the campus grounds, dappling the lawns in cool spots of shade. I was moved by the flurry of color that was scattered from the trees my first fall. We didn’t have nearly so many deciduous trees back in Oregon. But at the same time, the lack of familiar conifers from my home could be off-putting. 

During orientation, I became quickly acquainted with the positive energy Oberlin overflowed with. I was glad to become part of the progressive political climate, which encompassed everyone from first-years to faculty, and our president. I felt welcomed by each of the smiling faces I encountered. I got to know my PAL (Peer Advising Leader) and my fellow students she was advising during orientation. Together, we took a trip to Spaces Gallery through the Connect Cleveland program and built strong bonds of friendship that lasted beyond the time we kept meeting as an advising group (one of my best friends at Oberlin I met because we were together in our PAL group and both aspired to be creative writing majors).

Orientation at Oberlin passed by me like a dizzying, spun sky of stars. I learned so much about the place I was now in and how far-reaching its influence was in people’s lives. Then, in a flash, it became time for classes to begin. 

I rose early during my first academic week. I worked to find the rooms my classes were in early, and arrive on time. I made an effort to immediately connect with my professors and participate in class discussions—I did and still do sit near or in the front. I worked through tireless negotiation to wheedle myself into the classes I really wanted to take during the add/drop period. I wasn’t initially registered for chemistry, but by the end of the add/drop week I had shifted my classes to afford me a spot in a 9:30 am chemistry course. This was important to allow me to get a requirement for my planned biology major done early on. I settled into a routine of coursework, featuring chemistry problems sets, nightly Spanish homework (for my planned Spanish minor), and first-year seminar discussions among other things. I was overjoyed in my intro to fiction class to find myself among writers very much like me who wanted to tell the world their stories. On one sunny afternoon after my fiction class finished, I introduced myself to two fellow students who, like me, had ambitions to publish their own novels. The three of us sat on the grass outside our classroom then, and discussed our plans for stories. My new friends were willing to listen to me talk in depth about my book and asked dynamic questions and wondered about the magic system I’d designed. I began creating my friend group right there and then, and would go on to discuss stories and unique ideas for writing with them for hours on many future days.

Alongside the routine of classes that I began, I started participating in extracurriculars during my first semester too. I auditioned for three a cappella groups and two plays. I ended up performing in the show 9 to 5 with the Oberlin Musical Theater Association, a student theater group dedicated to putting on musicals every semester. My schedule became quite busy with rehearsals every weeknight and on Saturdays and this briefly overwhelmed me, stressed me out.  I soon began to get a feel for how my routine should go, though, and I continued expanding my schedule of activities. I attended meetings for the Oberlin Community of Writers (OCOW for short) on Sunday afternoons. I began singing with the Oberlin Musical Union on Monday nights. And I applied to become a student blogger, excited to document and beautifully portray my college experiences. Before I knew it, my first semester was flying by, and it was time for me to pick a Winter Term project. 

I faced an armada of options, littered in a fashion too orderly for the mind’s indecision, throughout the Winter Term Catalog. I considered an intensive program learning ancient Greek or Latin, a language immersion program in Guadalajara, Mexico, the intensively rehearsed musical Sweeney Todd, and a trip to perform with Musical Union and the Oberlin Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York. In the end, my ever-present ambition to take on many things got the best of me when it came to Winter Term. I negotiated a way to officially count Sweeney Todd as my Winter Term project while also participating in the rehearsals and performance for the Carnegie trip. In my free time that January (since I didn’t have homework to do while I wasn’t called during our long rehearsals) I began writing my book which I had been planning the plot of for years. My Winter Term was almost as busy as my fall semester had been, only without the power of grades hanging over the things I did. I was glad each day to be doing so many things I loved.

In my second semester, my academics became even more serious. I had to dedicate lots of time to my studies, cutting out some of my former activities. I found joy in my dedication to studying in the end, and it paid off. But it was a challenging time in my Oberlin journey. I took three classes in particular during that spring semester that gave a very heavy workload. Spanish 102 was a continuation of Spanish 101 which I’d taken last semester, and was just as time-consuming. We had classes every day of the week, and at least two hours of homework per week night. My Chemistry 102 class continued the chemistry class I’d taken during my first semester, only it quickly became clear that the chemistry I’d be taking now was of a more serious nature. I aggressively tucked in pockets of study time for my rigorous exams in my lunch breaks, every night that I possibly could, and from morning till evening. I often allowed myself only ten-minute breaks which were for eating. This tested my endurance, but I took pride in how efficient I became. My third time-intensive class was one I had been over-the-moon to take: Speculative Worlds—a class on the very sort of fictional world-building I aspired to do in my book. I loved the course, fully committing myself to each of the writings and readings that we did. I was determined to show my dedication to the subject which didn’t help my time commitment, but the course in general already constituted a large time commitment too. We were constantly being assigned short stories that were fascinating, but not short to read in the sense of the amount of time spent staring at a screen. Add this to the small, additional commitment to my psychology class I had, my new placement singing with Oberlin College Choir, and my new secondary lessons course in voice, and you got the kind of schedule I could barely fit into my week that I was working with. My second Oberlin semester pushed me to the limits of my academic capacity, but was a valuable moment of growth for my skill sets in studying, time management, and successful testing techniques.

Toward the end of my second semester is when I began truly preparing for my second year. I decided to take a break from chemistry in my courseload in favor of taking biology next, and I applied for new jobs. I started serving as a campus tour guide and was accepted to work as an RA (Resident Assistant) and Peer Advising Leader, following in the footsteps of my own PAL who had inspired me with her leadership. I went home to Oregon over my first-year summer and worked on my book I’d begun during Winter Term. I put in the time to write nearly 100,000 words of the story, at last inscribing my long-carried inspirations on the page. When summer was over, I returned to Oberlin energized for a new chapter in my college saga. Riding in a Lyft car from the airport, I remember how I was filled with a soaring hope. I watched broad, green, rolling hills passing by and thought of how far I’d come. And with a smile and an eagerness to lead and keep learning, I leaped into my second Oberlin year. Now having made it part way through my new fall semester and with a whole tome of new things I’ve just experienced and explored, I feel as ecstatic as ever to continue my career at this high-achieving liberal arts institution. 

My name is Evan Hamilton, and I am a student wholeheartedly experiencing and enjoying the wide breadth of activities available at the one and only Oberlin College. And I am glad and proud to keep being that. 

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