Back in August, before the wave of freshmen arrived, I spent 4 days meeting people. Many, many people. I was training to be a Student Accessibility Advocate (SAA). As a SAA, I was preparing to spend my school year advocating for disability rights on campus and to mentor incoming first-years who had registered with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). During those first few days, my job was to learn about every resource Oberlin had to offer that could possibly help my first-year mentees. My coworkers and I got a tour of the elusive geology department, learned about all of the ways that Student Academic Services can save your butt (or, more accurately, help you save your own), and saw the varsity sports' locker rooms. Along the way we met the administrators, professors, and counselors who run these great programs.
The process changed my view of Oberlin. As a first-year, I had spent most of my time in the same places, never branching out. I had no idea just how many sports fields we have or that the religious leaders on campus are just as confidential as the psychologists at the counseling center or that you can get a tutor for any class for free through Student Academic Services. Even though the main purpose of my training was to learn how to help others, I discovered many things that ended up helping me.
However, even this didn't make my transition back to Oberlin life easy. I became one of those clowns who endlessly slip on banana peels. Mistakes were made in terms of my dorm accommodations, I got strep throat (I just finished my 2nd round of antibiotics), and now that I had a solid friend group, I realize that drama isn't limited to high school. This doesn't mean I am not having a blast! I am on a spinning theme park ride that makes you puke in between giggles.
As this is happening, I am mentoring first-years, telling them over and over that the first few weeks are hard but that everything gets better. I'm not lying. I know that if any of the things happening right now had occurred last year, I would have built myself a room under DeCafe, filled it with children's books and Gatorade, and stayed there until I ran out of flex points. But, so far, I've been okay. When it was clear that the 1st round of antibiotics did nada, I had a friend drive me to a Cleveland Clinic outpost. Ma'ayan (the person actually in charge of these blogs) was able to tell me which creative writing professor to email when I needed to know which English classes would count towards the major. And it was easy to find a (real) adult who I trusted enough to talk to about the social drama.
Despite knowing about every resource on campus, I barely use any of them. It isn't that I hate the counseling center or that I don't think that class deans aren't great people to vent to. In fact, I think that every student should investigate all of the various offices and centers that can help them when they've fallen on a banana. However, those places are the most valuable when you already know people in them. That's the problem with being a first-year. It's easy to get help, but you don't know whom to ask. No amount of training could have told me that my blogging boss would be able to tell me how to resolve my scheduling issue or that some friends are willing to wake up at 7:30 on a Saturday to drive you to the doctors.
I am so grateful to go to a school that offers hundreds of ways to help students. But when it comes down to it, the best resources are relationships.
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