Oberlin Blogs

On Atmosphere

October 29, 2019

Meredith Warden ’23

I’ve always been someone who appreciates, for lack of a better phrase, the ‘little things in life,’ whether that’s the muffled quiet after a snowstorm or that first delicious bite of a piece of cake. So, when I decided to come to Oberlin, I wondered how this receptiveness to the milieu of everyday life would make itself known here, in this new (and, let’s be real here, somewhat terrifying) environment. I honestly believe that seemingly insignificant effects, like a place’s atmosphere, can have tangible effects on how comfortable one feels in that place, so I was excited and nervous to figure out how I would perceive Oberlin’s atmosphere.

I got off to a good start. Before I even chose to go to Oberlin, I visited for All Roads, and the Academic Open House was my favorite part. Every professor I talked to seemed so passionate about their subject matter and genuinely interested in answering my concerns, questions, and general enthusiastic comments. The atmosphere was one of palpable excitement, and I left feeling like this could maybe be the right place for me. 

Luckily, this engaging academic atmosphere has continued, as many of my professors are wonderful and I genuinely enjoy my classes. But the atmosphere of a school is more than just academics—it is made up of those tiny, everyday interactions and observations that define one’s relation to a place. And Oberlin is chock-full of these. 

Sitting on Tappan Square with my friends during Orientation Week, marveling at how the slight breeze, bumblebees lazily floating by, and faint strains of music combined to create a feeling of contentment, I felt an atmosphere of peace. Heading into my dorm after dinner and hearing Con students practicing, I smiled, thinking about how the musicality of the conservatory extends beyond the walls of the physical building to become truly ingrained in Oberlin’s atmosphere.

Taking a second to admire Mudd backlit by a beautiful pink sky, I thought of the unique beauty of Oberlin. Walking to class this past week and noticing the crunch of leaves under my feet, the morning light shining through the colorful leaves, and the slight nip in the air, I felt excited for what was yet to come. 

My point is, take stock of these small daily moments that make you smile now, and, if you visit Oberlin, try to notice the little things that might make you happy for the next four years. In giving advice about how to choose a college, many people told me to rely on a ‘gut feeling,’ that I would just know if the school was right for me when I stepped onto campus. I didn’t. 

In reality, choosing a college requires an in-depth personal reflection of what you want to get out of these four years, and this, admittedly, goes beyond the atmosphere of a school.

But the atmosphere of a college is essential to determining whether or not you like the school—even if it’s not a priority, the atmosphere is (literally) in the background. So next time you visit Oberlin or any college, take a moment to look around and be present—you never know what you might notice!  

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