Oberlin Blogs

Final Words of Advice

August 26, 2010

Tess Yanisch ’13

Hello freshmen! You'll be on campus in a very few days. You probably are getting last-minute advice from everyone you meet right now, including me. I'm sure you know that, ultimately, the college experience is something you'll each have to figure out for yourselves. What I say here may help you; it may not. But there's one thing I'm sure of: you'll figure it out eventually, settle in, and start having fun.

The pond at the arb
Bonus activity: try to find where all these pictures came from!

First piece of advice: arrive well-rested. This is a bit less important if your parents are coming out with you to help you move in. However, sleep deprivation makes any and all mood swings worse, whether it's combined with setting up your first solo living arrangements or not. I took a red-eye out, all by myself, and was kind of a mess for a day or so. If you can help it, don't do that to yourself.

Creek at the arb

Second piece of advice: get used to shaking hands and saying your name and hometown. This is basically all I remember doing during Orientation, aside from a few assemblies and meeting with my adviser. After a while, you will forget who you've formally met and who you've just seen around. Don't feel bad--everyone else is equally overwhelmed/sensory overloading/blurring people together. Just say, "Sorry, have we met? I'm Clark Kent, from Smallville," and they'll react in kind. At one point, I actually ended up eating supper with someone after the following conversation in the dining hall:

HIM: Hi. Uh, have we actually met, or have I just seen you around?

ME: I was just about to ask you that... *laughs* Whatever. I'm Tess. Hi.

Awkwardness is diffused when neither person is more savvy than the other--and you will all be equally clueless, I assure you.

Paved path at the arb

Third piece of advice: If you're not clicking immediately with everyone you meet, that's fine. Oberlin's got lots of introverts! Your roommate/hall buddies/person you met at the airport might be hanging out with people all the time while you don't have the energy or inclination. That's not a problem--don't force yourself to be the life of the party. Make sure you're comfortable. Just don't actually hide from people and you will find "your people" fairly quickly.

Corollary: Finding "your people" may take until the upperclassmen come back. It's good to have friends from all the different years--they can give you advice, tell you what professors to take or avoid, tell you about ObieGame, etc. Benefit from their (actually, our--I feel so wise) experience.

Peters from the outside

Fourth piece of advice: Do seek out people with interests like yours. This is harder to do during Orientation, because the campus isn't yet in full swing, and no one knows each other yet. Once the year really starts, look at the gazillion posters around campus and go to something. Try out for an improv group--*cough*SunshineScouts*cough--or sign up for an ExCo or three. (That's how I met lots of the people on Sci-Fi/Fantasy Hall.)

A clothes hanger in a tree

Fifth piece of advice: Make lots of friends--branch out, range freely. The tendency during Orientation is to bond fast and intensely. However, after that week, you may not find yourself spending as much time with the people you met then as with the people you met later (in classes, on your hall, in your ExCo, at lunch, etc.). This, too, is fine and you are not to feel guilty about it. They are probably doing the same thing.

A bloomed rose

Sixth piece of advice: Relax the agenda a little. If you're like me, you want to Get Things Done and socializing waits until After Work is Done. Loosen up. Breathe. Talk to someone you see walking across campus--the world will not end if you read that chapter after lunch. Go to Azariah's--the library coffee shop--and read a magazine, or do homework in DeCafe, or get a smoothie and drink it outside in the sun. Talk to people. Isn't that fun?

Stones underneath two wooden slats

Final vital thing to attend to: Bring some kind of agenda/student planner. You're going to need it to keep your schedule straight! You should also have a place to write down what you need to do each day. Some people try to do this all in their planner. For me, that gets too crowded, so I have two essential books that organize my life. The first is a planner with monthly and weekly spreads. I use the month spreads to note when big tests fall and so on. On the other pages, I fill out each day with times and places--be at this class, in this room, at this time; meet someone for lunch at DeCafe; Sunshine Scouts practice tonight; and so on. Believe me, this gets essential! Write your name and contact information on the cover so it can be returned to you, should you ever--horrors!--misplace it.

The second book is a small blank notebook. It contains to-do lists for each day--not just assignments, but all the minutiae of daily life. "PSYCH: read ch. 12; FRENCH: review vocab lists; begin English essay; DO LAUNDRY!!!; talk to Emma re: yarn." Whatever needs to be done goes in the book. And life goes on smoothly.

Good luck. I will see you all shortly.

Two roses
A very lush, draping tree

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