Welcome to fall break, a breath of crinkly-leaf-scented air with a hint of wood smoke and mulling spice wafting on a brisk breeze if you're in the Midwest. Or a week of rain if you're in San Francisco. Or a week of sun if you've headed south.
Fall in Oberlin is incredibly gorgeous. Tappan Square and its surroundings are an array of autumnal colors, leaves fluttering down... I can't really put this in words. Let's try photos instead.
Tappan Square in resplendent glory.
I've only spent one break in Oberlin, spring break during my sophomore year. My midterms week that spring was an absolute killer; for some reason I was busy until 1am every day during the week, doing things completely unrelated to class work. What that meant is that I ended up starting my midterm projects at about 1:30am. Kids, don't try this following story at home (or at college).
I pulled four all-nighters over five days, parking my butt, my computer, my textbook I had to summarize and various class notes, and a ton of snacks and tea in the corner of Harkness dining room. I saw some ridiculous things over that week's work: friends who had snapped and decided to take scissors to their shirts and pants for an experiment in slasher-fashion, other all-nighter cohorts studying late (early?) into the night (morning?) with their choice of caffeinated beverage, plus a late-night carload of people bringing me a burger from a nearby diner at 5am and a visit from a friend who brought me a mixed CD to get me through the night.
I napped in short half-hour chunks between 7:45 and 8:30am, before I got up for another killer day to be followed by a killer night. Do not do this. Ever. I was a walking wreck, causing me to falter into giggling spasms over really simple things. I think I remembered to eat (another nice perk of eating in a co-op: my meals were a flight of steps away and leftovers and an industrial kitchen were available to me at all hours of the night/morning).
On Friday morning, when I had finally finished my summaries and presentations and taken off of work that afternoon, I woke up lazily around 11am, and turned on my computer for something other than school-related activities. I chatted with my friend Jake while he finished packing, and he linked me to the following video, which I watched a dozen times in a cloud of sheer happiness. I wandered around Harkness the rest of the day singing. To this day, I can't not grin when I watch this video. This is my "welcome to break" present to you. Watch it and smile.
SO. After I had that whole week of nightmarish work and sleep deprivation, staying in Oberlin was the best break I could have had. My friend Eliza was around the whole week as well, plus my friends Eric and Jamie were in for halves of the week. This little crew was the redux of the Hark Foodship from that past January: we planned complicated all-day meals, went on incredibly delicious trips to West Side Market, and took over Harkness kitchen with big plans. We ate very well that week.
In the hours of not-cooking, I spent many hours watching movies, blowing bubbles outside with Eliza (documented in print on the Oberlin poster), and rereading some of my favorite books, The Shipping News and The Cider House Rules. Eric, Sean, Eliza, Michael, and I took a short road trip to visit Jamie and his family in Pittsburgh for dinner one evening (read a short account of another Albrecht family encounter here), but for the most part, I bummed around, relaxing like I never had before.
From one Obie to another: if you really want to take a break from life during a school break, the easiest way to do it is to stay put. You really can sleep 12 hours without someone/something telling you to get up (hi parents and/or alarm clocks!), you really can have epic movie marathons and eat only popcorn for a whole day, and you really can enjoy Oberlin's changing seasonal apparel in luxury.
I would like to share with you a list of fun things to consider for an incredibly relaxing Oberlin break, without leaving your lovely new home.
Get a public library card:
I will wax poetic about libraries, always. My best friends growing up were books. The Oberlin public library has a great collection of titles, both old friends and new ones. There's also an extensive movie collection, ranging from family-friendly classics to foreign films to fratpack comedies.
All you need to get a card is your OCMR. You will have to pass a test, however: you'll be limited to two items on your first check-out to assure that you'll return them safely and in a timely manner, and then you get all the perks of your library card: books, movies, CDs, etc. This card can and will come in handy again if you are here over Winter Term.
Movies, movies, movies:
In addition to the hundreds of movie titles at the public library, Mudd library's limited hours are in no way a limitation to checking out movies. Did you know Mudd has movies? Oh so many, and most are two-day check-outs, perfect for a campus break when you know you need to leave your room every couple days.
Don't forget the Apollo if you're looking for visual entertainment outside your room. Matinees are cheaper than evening screenings, so now that you don't have those pesky classes in the way, you can save a dollar!
No, not for your classes. This is a time for fun reading! Pick up one of your favorite books that you couldn't bear to part and brought to college with you, borrow your hallmates/friends' favorite books, or head to the library. If the weather is as nice as it was this past weekend, I highly recommend reading outside. Gorgeous. (I spent it biking around taking photos for this post.)
Screen movies in the lounge instead of in your room. Make a big pot of spaghetti with tomato sauce. Invite all your friends to these events, brag about it on Facebook/Twitter so they know they're missing out. If anyone else is alive and around, they may join you because of the delicious smells and sounds of life from you and your tv/computer. Instant friends!
Enjoy the fall:
Walk or bike to the arb. Collect beautifully colored leaves. Write poetry on them, or decorate your room. Gather up leaves in North/South quad in a big pile and jump in it. If you're never lived in a deciduous environment, you must do this. Leaf jumping is the best (avoid this activity if it's been raining, or else everything will be wet and terrible).
Explore Lorain County:
If you're here with a car (or are friends with a car or a person with a car), take a little trip around Lorain County. You may or may not find Krieg's ice cream stand (in their last week of seasonally flavored handmade frozen custard), a corn maze, or people selling pumpkins. Similarly, if you wear a helmet and bike safely (on your bike or a borrowed one) you can head out into Lorain County, too.
Mmmm. My favorite option. The dining halls aren't open, so this is a good opportunity to try your hand at dorm cooking. Grab a backpack and/or a strong friend who stayed around and go to IGA (west on Lorain Street several blocks past the art museum). If you plan ahead and aren't dead asleep on the first Saturday of break, head to one of the final Oberlin Farmer's Markets, located next to the public library. Get a library card while you're down Main Street, too!
Practice/catch up on work:
When you're older and more overwhelmed, a break doesn't mean that you can completely forget about academics. Whether you're working on a project, honors, or your junior recital, the quiet ambiance of campus during a break is a great time to catch up with your life. There's a good chance your dorm is on the verge of empty, so you can practice your instrument in your room (or somewhere more bizarre, like the kitchen or the bathroom... I bet the acoustics are great). Many campus offices are still open this week, so you can head to the career center to get a headstart on possible Winter Term internships or catch up on your to-do list. And you can always do homework.
Have a game tournament:
Have you ever played through an entire set of Apples to Apples cards? I have, and it was amazing. I highly recommend it. When else will you have several hours in a row to kill? Have a sprawling game tournament, cards, board games, video games... or make your own. You're an Obie, I know you are creative enough.
Dress up at Ratsy's:
I think this is a tradition at this point. Ratsy's is a fabulous vintage shop downtown that has an amazing collection of clothing upstairs. Every year I see yet another album of dressup of students' first excursions to Ratsy's. Before I knew of Ratsy's (and when there was still a vintage clothing section in the basement of Bead Paradise), I took photos of my friends playing dressup, too. It was great. Bonus: Halloween is at the end of break. Head to Ratsy's and be inspired!
I don't need to tell you how or why. I recommend taking advantage of the sunlight, though, and sleep at more normal hours than, I don't know, 6am-5pm?
Tap into your childhood loves:
Ben Franklin has all forms of craft supplies and finger paint, so you can have a kindergarten joy and creativity day. Bead Paradise also has such an incredible collection of jewelry-making supplies, so you can make presents for your friends who you miss for being away for a whole week and family that you miss all the time.
Find other folks who are around:
Think of it as a second orientation: you're not busy, the weather is still gorgeous, and there are people here you probably don't know as well as you could. Take advantage of the lack of dinner rush at some downtown restaurants, cook together, or just have a sprawling late-night conversation. New friends are great. Hint: the fellows probably think you're really cool.
So, if you haven't been convinced to stay in Oberlin for fall break yet, I'll throw in one of my sneaky little bits of personal propaganda. Ever since my family moved to Hawaii, I've wanted them to move back to the mainland ever so badly. Upon arriving my new temperate home, I started sending yearly batches of photos to my family, filled with seasonal glory, to tug at their heartstrings with colorful autumn images. It worked on Ben, at least.
Have some leaves. Maybe some will wait for students to return, too.
Downtown Oberlin has tons of ginko leaves, which are bright yellow.
This is all on my block. Don't forget to vote next week, guys!
And this last photo is my new computer background. The colors are breathtaking. Autumn is great.