All Roads Go Ever On and On
Well, it's prospie season, as I can tell by the large number of All Roads Lead to Oberlin posts up. I've already given my two cents about how to get the most out of the prospie experience in a previous post, so I think that now I'll give you a hodgepodge of other, tangentially-related information. It will be helpful and amusing. Also, it's just easier. I'm good at tangents. I like tangents. (And sines, cosines, cotangents, secants, and cosecants! Yayyy trig identities!)
But to return to my purpose...
I went to All Roads last year, when I was but a wee prospie myself. It was a good experience and the visit was the tipping point in my decision of which college to attend. From that decision sprang almost all my experiences of the last seven months. As a social science nerd (I'm almost positive, now, that I'll probably be a psychology major, maybe, if nothing else happens to change my mind), I'm interested in how people make decisions, and as a writer, I'm interested in watching the cascade of choices that follow from one simple decision. One choice--to visit a college--can be the first step on that much-talked-of journey of a thousand miles.
No, I'm not referring to the famous Confucius quote, actually--I'm thinking of The Lord of the Rings. "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. If you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might be swept off to." Well, I stepped out of a front door in western Washington, and let me tell you, Oberlin, Ohio, isn't a bad place to wind up.
Some information that might be useful for parents: you don't have to stay at the Oberlin Inn--Mom and I didn't. There's at least one--I think there are actually several--households in Oberlin that rent out extra rooms during busy times of year (All Roads, Commencement, probably Parents' Weekend too) and donate the money to charity. My mom and I stayed with the Fuchsmans, both of whom I now know in other contexts: Barbara Fuchsman is very involved with the Oberlin Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Professor Fuchsman is the hero/bane of some of my friends in the Chemistry department. At the time, they were just very nice people who were letting us stay at their house and were wonderful sources of information. It turned out that they know one of my aunts, too. Anyway, it was fun, and I would recommend this kind of "bed and breakfast for charity" if you come visit.
But that was only one aspect of my visit to Oberlin. There were other vital key factors. One of them was probably the weather. I don't think it's a coincidence that colleges hold their open-house days at this time of year--the odds are good for gorgeous skies, warm weather, and sweet-smelling flowers everywhere. It energizes the student body and makes them extra happy, interested, and helpful.
I sat in on two different classes, one on free speech and the internet and one on Victorian literature (I believe the first is part of the First-Year Seminar Program and the second is an English class called "Wit, Rakes, Madmen, and Jane," but I could be mistaken). Students in those classes were involved, excited, and very talkative during the discussion periods--a very big factor in my decision, as I'd been to other schools where it really took a lot of prompting from the professor to get any discussion going, even a hesitant one. The students also showed interest in me, asking where I was from and what other colleges I was looking at, which had happened at some but not all of the other colleges I'd visited.
I went to the student panel discussions and I would strongly advise you to do so also. In addition to getting many of my own questions answered, I found listening to other people's equally interesting. There were also some pretty amusing moments; I remember one girl saying, "My mom is pretty nervous that I'm considering coming to Oberlin. What can I do to reassure her that I won't be having gay, interracial orgies all the time?" The room exploded with laughter and several people almost fell out of their seats, me included. So go to those.
Stay the night with a host, too. When I visited, I stayed with three other prospies (!) on the floor of a huge room. (It was a converted lounge--there had been housing issues and lots of small lounges have been turned into doubles.) Our hostess was pretty busy that night, so she didn't show us around much, but we all went to dinner together. That's the only time I've eaten in the Lord/Saunders dining hall, and I should go again, because the food was delicious. It's on South Campus, though, and I'm right across the road from Stevenson, and all my friends eat at Stevie...plus I just keep forgetting. But I digress. Sorry. Tangents again.
After that, we went back to the room and our hostess pulled up the Oberlin events calendar. As usual, there was a lot happening. This time of year is just crazy--people having their junior or senior recitals, theater and dance productions, lectures . . . There are usually other events that aren't officially posted, so check out flyers around campus (there are lots on the board outside Mudd, for instance) if nothing online tickles your fancy. I ended up going to a lecture on the depiction of abortion in movies.
If you're here on a Friday, visit TGIF. TGIF is a mob of people hanging out in Wilder Bowl (the big green space between Wilder Hall, Mudd, and Dascomb; behind Finney Chapel and the King Building; the open quad area in the center of campus with all the people hanging out). It starts after classes let out in the afternoon--probably around 4:00. There will be people playing Frisbee and playing instruments and probably circus folk juggling and walking on stilts. Join in a Frisbee game or something, or just observe the Obie in its native habitat. Then wander through the library or the Science Center atrium to examine other Friday afternoon activities--because lots of people are still hard at work or enjoying themselves more quietly in the North Quad. You might even find me sitting at the tables outside the Science Center, reading something and drinking a smoothie.
Oh, yes--if it's nice out, go to DeCafe (in the basement of Wilder) and get a smoothie. I recommend a half-vanilla, half-chai base--it's delicious.
Another thing I did last year was swing by the Cat in the Cream, a coffeehouse on campus that's only open when someone is performing there. I thought this was a cool idea and I saw there was some kind of "improv conference" going on, and I like funny stuff, so I went. It turned out that this was not a student performance: a student group had brought in three professional troupes to perform! I watched in delight.
Turns out that the student group in charge of the Oberlin College Improv Conference is none other than the Sunshine Scouts, and the conference is at about the same time this year! I'm not actually involved much at all in the planning, so I'll just pull from the Facebook event listing. I think these are the events open to the public (all the performances; there are workshops for the 'provvers, which I'm leaving out). Come if you can; it should be good.
The 2010 Oberlin College Improv Conference is on and popping!
This year's lineup:
Upright Citizens Brigade TourCo
Rare Bird Show
The Irish Mutts
Friday April 16:
8:00 PM: The Irish Mutts perform at the Cat in the Cream
9:00 PM: Rare Bird Show performs at the Cat in the Cream
10:00 PM: UCB TourCo performs at the Cat in the Cream
Saturday April 17:
8:30 PM - ???? Improv Till You're Dead Marathon, featuring The Sunshine Scouts, Primitive Streak, OBehave, and troupes from around the country!
So you see, my experience as a prospie primed me for becoming what I am today: an active member of the Sunshine Scouts. My lecture-going habits were also firmly established (I went to one on Thursday about the stress response and how it's useful in keeping monkey-like creatures alive out in the wild but very maladaptive for human life today--just fascinating). It's almost a prologue or a rough draft of the eventual college experience.
There really isn't much else I can tell you about All Roads except to reach out and experience as much as you can, and to talk to people as much as you can. Gather all the data you think you need so you can feel good about your college decision, no matter where the road takes you in the end.