Blog Lookback: First Year
November 13, 2022
Claire O’Brocta ’23
Being a fifth-year student is a strange experience at Oberlin. There aren’t many of us (albeit, there are more than usual due to people taking time off for the pandemic), and a lot of my friends that I’ve known since my freshman year have graduated and moved away. One thing from my freshman year that’s still here though are my blogs! Since it’s my last year here in Oberlin, I decided it would be a good idea to take a look back at the blogs I’ve posted each year and respond to them based on where I am now. I’m starting right here right now, with four posts from my first year.
First-Year Blog #1
The very first Oberlin blog I wrote was in December 2018, right before I embarked on my first Winter Term project. I talked about the project a bit in that post, but the gist of it is I spent about two weeks at my parents' house doing research on several music venues in Los Angeles, from small clubs to big arenas, and then I flew to LA and visited all of them. I ended that blog by saying that “I certainly plan to come back in a month and write about how everything went,” but I never did that. I guess I’ll do it now, four years later!
The idea for this project was born out of my desire to go to a one-night music festival that featured a lot of my favorite artists at the time. It was at an arena in LA, and I was interested in the bands’ histories in the city; basically, what brought them to this stage? I chose 3 of the bigger bands on the lineup, found every show they had ever played in LA, and selected venues to visit based on the ones they had played shows at in the past. Then, I designed a general itinerary for the trip. I mapped out where all the venues were, and grouped them together based on location so I could visit ones that were near each other on the same day. I didn’t plan many other activities ahead of time aside from venue visiting, since I wanted to get opinions on the best activities from both my LA friends and the host I was staying with. Generally, I just wanted to go with the flow! During my research, I did find some museums that were relevant to my project, though (namely the Hollywood Bowl museum and the Grammy museum), so I made sure to incorporate those into my loose schedule. When I visited each venue, I recorded clips of myself standing outside of them. In the videos, I talked about the venue’s history, notable facts about it, and the bands from the festival that had played there in the past. My plan was to compile all of the clips into one big cumulative video, but I never ended up getting there. Even so, the experience was extremely valuable. I learned a lot about the venues, the bands, and how to plan a safe and effective solo trip across the country as an 18-year-old.
I really enjoyed that Winter Term project. It was exactly what I expected Winter Term to be like when I was a prospective student. I’m also glad that I traveled while I still could, since the pandemic took over most of my future Oberlin Januaries. I did my second Winter Term project in January 2021, which was a last-minute surprise since we were originally supposed to start the spring semester that month and have Winter Term in June. Due to how last minute it was (and pandemic restrictions), it was so much simpler: I just worked on my junior recital. I’m doing my last Winter Term project this year, and I actually just applied for it a few days ago. This one is similar to my third year – I’m going to be working on my senior recital. However, this time I’m allowed to be in Oberlin for it, so I can use the TIMARA studios and enlist my friends for help. I’m honestly looking forward to it, especially since it will allow me to have my recital ready for the first half of the spring semester and prevent me from rushing to get everything done right before finals like I was my junior year. Speaking of my recitals, I’m hoping to write a post about both of them before I graduate, so stay tuned!
First-Year Blog #2
On to my second ever Oberlin blog, which I wrote at the end of Winter Term in 2019. Instead of doing an update on my experiences with my project, I decided to write a cooking update. I was in a co-op my freshman year, which I missed dearly during my first long break from school. This inspired me to cook like a co-oper in my parents’ kitchen, and then, of course, write about it.
This was the first of two blogs that I wrote that was focused on Oberlin’s co-ops. I was in a different co-op for both of my first two years here, and one blog was about each. I was in Fairkid my first year, which at the time was Oberlin’s vegan co-op. Unfortunately, Fairkid was one of the co-ops that did not survive the pandemic, and a regular dining hall now takes its place. I’ve been on a limited meal plan since 2020 (with accommodations allowing me to cook from home most of the time), and whenever I go to that dining hall, it brings back memories of my old co-op. Even though I’m no longer a member of OSCA, I’m so glad that I was for my first two years at Oberlin. In that January 2019 blog, I said that being in a co-op “was one of the things that, especially as a first-year student, made Oberlin truly start to feel like home,” and it’s true! My co-op, my first-year dorm (which I’ll be sharing more on in a minute), and the close-knit TIMARA department were the three things in my first year that made me feel the most community, and helped me start to fully enjoy my Oberlin experience. Co-ops also added to my cooking skills, which is one of the biggest focuses of that blog post. The cooking skills in particular really help me today, because as I said, I’ve been cooking most of my own meals here since my junior year! I may be a bit more reliant on scrambled eggs than tofu scrambles now since I’m not vegan, but the skills apply nonetheless.
First-Year Blog #3
I wrote my third Oberlin blog in February 2019, aptly named after the month it was written in. It was a reflection on the times I visited Oberlin as a prospective student, the first and last of which were in February 2017 and February 2018. At the time, it felt so surreal that I was just a first-year and it was already my third February in Oberlin. Now that I’m a fifth-year, this February will be the seventh in a row that I’ll set foot on this campus, and that’s just unbelievable.
Going back and reading this blog again felt particularly nostalgic. I’m still surrounded by talk of Winter Term and co-ops on a daily basis, but being a prospective student? That was a lifetime ago, and I certainly remembered a lot more details when I was a freshman than I do now. That blog reminded me that I didn’t even care all that much about visiting Oberlin in the first place, which is so funny to me now, considering what a major part of my life Oberlin has been for the past several years. At my last prospective visit, which was for my TIMARA audition, I met multiple professors for the first time who I still work with now, as well as some of the students who became my lifelong friends. Back then, I had no concept of how life-changing these visits would be, I was just excited that there was free food. Honestly, the free food is still exciting now. We went a couple years without that being a thing, and this semester has finally brought back TIMARA pizza parties. I’m looking forward to auditions this coming February, because they’ll be in person for the first time since 2020, and TIMARA will (hopefully) have more pizza. As a fifth-year, talking with prospective TIMARA students and families is particularly cool because I have so much experience with the department. I talked with a few families during parents' weekend, and that’s given me a taste of what’s to come at auditions. I think my February 2019 blog will also be helpful come audition season, because it reminds me of how I felt when I was the one auditioning, and those feelings can help me connect with the prospies even more. The only unfortunate thing is I won’t be able to see this year’s prospies when they get here as actual students. When I came to Oberlin for my second and third years, it was always neat to see some freshmen that I remembered talking with over pizza at audition weekend. However, I’ve had that opportunity before, and most current students haven’t. I’m excited for them to experience it for the first time this year.
First-Year Blog #4
Last but not least, my fourth and final blog from my first year was about my freshman dorm. I wrote this one during spring semester finals week, in May 2019. I was moving out of the only place I had ever lived in Oberlin at the time, and naturally, I felt reflective about it. The thing that immediately sticks out to me in this blog is how chaotic and stressful I made it sound to move out during finals. If only I knew how much worse it would be the following year, when everyone had to move out in the middle of the semester! These days, I’m glad to have finals week be move-out time. It’s way better than the alternative.
The funny thing about this dorm blog is I wanted to write it before I was even hired as a blogger. I read the blogs a lot as a prospie, and even though I already found some great information on dorm life, I was determined to add to it. That’s why there are measurements of all of the dorm furniture in the blog I wrote! I wanted to be as detailed as possible, so the prospies like me whose brains won’t stop thinking about the perfect dorm setup would have some relief. I answered all the questions about Kahn that I would’ve wanted answered a year prior, and that’s honestly what I think is one of the best things about being a blogger as a first-year. Being a prospie is still so fresh in your mind (like I mentioned in my reflection on my February blog), so you’re more in tune with the perspectives that current prospective students are looking for. I certainly don’t think there’s a disadvantage to blogging later in your time at Oberlin, though. This past summer, I read a ton of blogs by past fifth-years to try to get a taste of what this year might be like for me, and I found it extremely helpful. In all, these blogs are an amazing resource that I feel so lucky to be able to contribute to.
Anyway, let’s get back to the actual dorm content, I promised updates! I’m going to focus on dorm life outside the room itself, though, because I already wrote a bit of an update on that in a blog I posted during my third year, and I’ll respond to that when I get there. One non-room thing that I mentioned in my first-year dorm blog quite a bit was the lounge. I still miss that Kahn lounge to this day! This lounge was the place where one of my most important friend groups at Oberlin began to prosper. At the time, I wrote, “My friends from my hall and I did everything in our lounge: game nights, movie nights, group study sessions, Mario Kart tournaments, jam sessions, you name it! That room and the community fostered inside is something I’m going to miss so much next year. (Although I’m sure we’ll find a new lounge to take over somewhere!).” I’m sad to say that we did not find a new lounge for our sophomore year. Most of that friend group lived in Kahn as freshmen, so that’s naturally where we spent time. It was a difficult adjustment the following fall when we all began to live in different buildings. Due to our lack of a consistent hang-out space, I didn’t get back into a comfortable social groove with those friends until spring of my second year. Unfortunately, six weeks into that semester we got sent home, and as a result we had to find that groove all over again. Thankfully, not long into quarantine, Zoom became our new Kahn lounge. Though we couldn’t have effective Mario Kart tournaments or jam sessions virtually, we settled into a new routine of Jackbox games, DnD campaigns, and movies over Zoom to satisfy our social lives. I was the only friend in this group in the Conservatory, so I was the only one to return to Oberlin in the fall of our third year. The Zoom sessions kept up during those few months, which I was so grateful for considering how much I missed my friends. When they all came back in the spring, half of them lived in the same dorm as each other, so we were finally able to take over a new lounge. It got a bit tricky since that was the year we could only swipe into our own dorms, but the snafus were well worth it. Being able to play Mario Kart and watch movies in person again felt amazing, and it brought back some of my favorite parts about living in Kahn. By that summer, all of my friends lived in village houses, so we didn’t even need a lounge anymore – we could just hang out in each other's living rooms. That setup continued throughout our fourth year, but now most of those friends have graduated. Though I miss our lounges and living rooms dearly, I look back on them as some of the best memories in college, even the ones that had to be on Zoom. It’s all thanks to Kahn, and the lounge that cultivated our community as first-years.
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