As an accepted student to Oberlin, I was very anxious to imagine what my life here would be like. I loved looking at people describing their days and their dorms to try and prepare myself for college life. I thought that offering some insight to future students while they wait for the fall semester might be helpful. I also wanted to try and describe some of the things that surprised me that I wasn’t expecting once I got to college, both the good and the bad.
First of all, here's a little overview about how my day usually goes:
9 am - I wake up, get ready, and bike to either Wilder for a breakfast sandwich from Rathskeller, or get coffee and avocado toast from Azzie’s in Mudd library.
10am - I bike back to Severance Hall and have my Stats 101 course.
11am - I bike to Peters Hall and have my Chinese 102 course.
12pm - I grab lunch, usually the mapo tofu from Umami in Wilder (it’s not on the menu but it’s the best thing they have from my vegetarian perspective!) along with my yerba mate if they have it, and sit down to work for a while.
3pm - I bike back over to King and have my Cinema Studies course.
4:30pm - Usually I’ll either go back to my dorm and do work, or see if any of my friends want to hang out.
6pm - On Tuesdays, I have to go to a screening of the film that we will be discussing during the next two classes, so I usually go and grab some dinner beforehand.
7pm - The screening starts!
9 or 10pm - The film is done, and I go back to my dorm to spend some time by myself before I head to bed.
Although this isn’t super detailed, I hope that it can give you an overview of what my personal life in Oberlin is like. You might be different! For example, I can’t stand morning classes, so a 10am class is about as early as I can stand, but maybe you prefer to have your classes out of the way before noon. Another choice for classes that I know of is to load all of your classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays or Monday, Wednesday, Fridays, so the other days are free for doing work. Personally, I find that overwhelming, but I know it works really well for some people. The important thing is to know that college is what you make it.
Other than what my days are normally like, there are a few things about college that I couldn’t have expected, despite all the preparation, reading (and rereading!) of the Oberlin website and blogs. One of the biggest changes that I’ve found going from high school to college was not necessarily the difficulty of the work, at least from the classes, but the volume. If you’re taking a literature course, it’s not unusual to be assigned half or an entire book as homework. Personally I find this very tough because I really enjoy reading, but I usually like to spend my time with a book, letting it run its course however feels natural to my reading pace, but when there’s a lot of material to cover, you unfortunately cannot take that approach. If reading lots of text (especially dense, philosophical text) is difficult for you, I think it’s good to figure that out as soon as possible and try to structure your college life around that. While that could mean avoiding classes with heavy reading altogether, it could also mean working with one of the tutors that the college offers for free, or going to Executive Function tutoring to help organize your work in a way that feels manageable.
Additionally, there is of course the add-drop period for all classes, so if during the first week you can tell that the workload will be too heavy, you can drop it for another class. Personally, though, I don’t recommend avoiding classes because the work is challenging, because working through readings that challenge you can be very rewarding and help you improve your close reading skills in the future. That said, it’s never good to overload yourself with only difficult courses that are going to make your life miserable, so it’s important to try and figure out what classes will challenge you in a healthy way, and which will leave you so far out of your depth that you feel totally lost.
Another thing that I learned pretty quickly about Oberlin is that it’s a very tightly-knit community. While this is a big positive in a lot of ways, it can also sometimes make life difficult. It’s great that you’ll be able to run into your friends often and hang out with them spontaneously, but it also means that everyone knows everyone. If you’re having conflict with a friend, for example, it’s not always easy to avoid them, especially if you have friends in common. As a person who had a lot of friend difficulties in high school, I was anxious to go to college and start anew. However, it’s good to keep in mind that, as freshmen, you and your peers are barely a year removed from high school, so drama definitely still stirs up, and in such a close environment, that can be pretty stressful. That said, this shouldn’t discourage you from making new friends, because even if you don’t find your best friends for life right away, there are so many ways to meet new people, such as clubs, events, and classes. I still think it’s great to be excited to make friends in your first year, but it’s important to know that if they don’t pan out, there are still plenty of people who would love to get to know you.
The last thing I want to mention was not necessarily unexpected to me, but good to keep in mind: you are responsible for yourself. When I say that, what I mean is that you are going to be in charge of when you eat, when you sleep, etc. Maybe this seems obvious, but as a scatterbrained person, sometimes I forget to eat lunch and then end up with no time to do so until 4pm. There’s nobody around who’s going to be there to remind you to do your laundry, go to bed on time, go to class…you get the idea. Learning how to do this by yourself is all a part of learning how to live on your own as an adult, but I think it’s important to try and figure out what you know you struggle with to be aware of it for living on your own. For example, maybe you don’t know how to do laundry, or you struggle doing it in a timely manner (I certainly do!). It might help for you to pick a day that will be your weekly laundry/cleaning day. Additionally, you don’t need to go at it totally alone: if you’re struggling, there is no shame in calling home or using one of the many resources here on campus.
I hope this little overview helped you get a little bit of a better idea of what my life is like here at Oberlin, and what yours might be like. It’s good to prepare yourself for both the positives and negatives about college life. I hope this didn’t scare you, though, because I do love life here on campus and I’m confident I made the right decision to come to Oberlin. I can’t wait to see some of you on campus next year!
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