Oberlin Blogs

The First Day of Classes

February 10, 2020

Emma McIlhagga ’22

Hey there, loyal readers! Long time, no read! If you're new to the blogs, or have been reading for the past semester, and you're wondering who the heck I am, hi! I'm Em, and I'm a second-year here at Oberlin. I've written for the blogs for over a year now...if you don't count the fall semester.

There will be a longer blog post coming about this, but long story short, this is my first semester returning to Oberlin after taking a medical leave of absence. This means that last week was not only the first week of classes for all Oberlin students, but it was also my first week back at Oberlin in months, and therefore, I’ve needed time to settle and adjust, as well. 

It felt a lot like my first week of classes as a first-year; I had a lot of similar conflicts going on, with me wanting time to adjust, and also wanting to do All The Extracurriculars alongside my full class schedule. 

I thought I’d share a little time-stamped look into my first day back, since, like I said, it’s felt super similar to my first few days as a first-year, which is what some of you might be experiencing soon!



I was scheduled to first have my 9:00am sociology class in King. Intro to Sociology is probably the class I’m most looking forward to this semester. However, despite my plans to get up around 8:15am, my cat, Goose, had other ideas. The Chonk, as I affectionately call her, woke me up quite early, around 7:00am. So I sat serenely in the window seat in my room, with Goose purring in my lap, and watched the sunrise as I ate steaming oatmeal with cinnamon and apples. I watched a quick episode of Steven Universe, and then turned on NPR and listened to the morning updates in politics. I like to do this, because in a lot of classes at Oberlin, current events and politics often come up in modes of conversation, so I always like to be at least a little on top of things, even if I don’t have all the details or heated opinions that some of my peers tend to have.


I live maybe a 2-minute walk away from King, where most of my classes are this semester, but on the first day of class, I like to be an early bird.  So I headed out the door with, surprisingly, just my corduroy jacket on, and not my full winter coat! I was kind of shocked that it was only February 3rd and I was already enjoying sunshine and even, dare I say, some warmth outside. (Spoiler alert: it was short-lived.)


So yeah...I arrived at class extremely early, and the professor didn’t actually show up until 8:58am himself. The plus side was that I got first pick of the seats in a pretty sizeable class of 40 people. The awkward part came when I got settled and my headphones died, leaving me to sit in silence and scroll through Facebook as people trickled in. 

I was also texting my mom simultaneously, as I usually do whenever I'm at a first meeting of a class or club, just to give her a play-by-play. And today, I was texting her about the onslaught of white athletes walking through the doors with baggy basketball shorts, sweatshirts, and slides. Even at Oberlin, a place without fraternities, there were somehow still frat boys. And apparently they all were in 9am Sociology with me.


Time for class! It was a pretty relaxed atmosphere; like most classes at Oberlin, we had introductions that included our name, pronouns, our year, and the ever-popular icebreaker question. The icebreaker my professor chose was “What music are you listening to currently?” Of course, though I listen to music frequently, I completely blanked on what to say, so when it came time for me to uncomfortably introduce myself, I blurted out the name of the last artist I’d heard before putting away my headphones prior to class: Mitski. (Even though I don't actually listen to Mitski that much, she just so happened to have a couple songs on my playlist of choice that morning.)

The professor then went over the syllabus. Per usual, he discussed the course as a broad concept, and then went over the learning goals - i.e., what he wants us to get out of the class. He went over his attendance policy, and what the typical week looked like. Professors each have their own ways of structuring assignments and readings. In this case, we had to read certain chapters of our textbook prior to a class lecture on Monday. On Wednesdays, there would be discussion of current events that had to do with our topic, and Fridays, we had a short written response to an assigned article we had to read, followed by a discussion of said article. Pretty straightforward, and I always appreciate that in a professor. He was pretty blunt and didn't skirt around any issues or ideas; he just told us straight up how everything was going to go down in the class without any wishy-washy "This is going to follow you through life and give you the skills you need to Live" kind of thing. The professor then answered a few questions, and we were out of class with twenty minutes to spare. Honestly, a great first class overall.


I had no idea what to do with 2 ½ hours to spare before I had to go to work, so I did what any respectable college student would do with time to spare on the first day of classes: played the Sims the entire time.

Seriously, that's all I did. 


I left home early to pick up lunch at Decafe, the grab n’ go cafe option on campus, and ate on my way to work. I like getting meals at Decafe because of how convenient it is, and their hot sandwiches are delicious. I myself am partial to the turkey burger or the veggie burger, depending on my mood. You can sort of build-your-own combo; you pick out an entree, two sides, and a drink. Entrees can be anything from burgers, hot sandwiches and egg rolls to smoothies, cold sandwiches and bagels. There are too many options for sides to even list, but let's just say there's food fit for the health nut and the Frito-lover (the latter being my preference). Decafe also hosts the coveted Chocolate Soy Milk that I can never resist.

I decided to go with a cold chicken sandwich on a pretzel bun, some goldfish, some grapes, and of course, a chocolate soy milk. But I had to eat quickly, because it was time for work!


This is the part-time job I hold on campus, alongside writing for the blogs! I work about 5 ½ hours per week here, and it’s actually a pretty good gig! The ID Card Office is a part of the Center for Information Technology (C.I.T.), and it's holed up in the basement of the library. I’m not a big tech-y person, but it’s really flexible, my boss is great, and the secretary who sits at the desk across from me is very sweet and is kind of like my work mom. While I’m working, I usually help with data entry, organization, filing, and of course, printing ID cards for students who lost them or, in most cases at the beginning of the semester, left them at home. Sometimes I get to go on little adventures and check different ID card readers across campus, but that only happens once in a blue moon. We were super busy that day, so I mostly just printed lots of ID Cards! I did get a chance to catch up with our secretary, Sandy, and we chatted about her kids, my cat, and how much we disliked snowy, slushy winters in Ohio.


 My next class wasn’t until 3:30pm, so I went upstairs and picked up a snack. The ID Card Office is in a great atmosphere, because it’s the basement of the library, so I can always study in between shifts if I have two shifts on the same day. Plus, one of my favorite study spots is located there: Azariah’s Cafe! It’s just off to the side of the first floor of Mudd, through a set of double doors. You can get pastries there, a few select ready-made sandwiches from Decafe, and you can order any type of drink you’d get at a coffee shop! I usually get an iced chai latte and a scone. They had blueberry scones, my favorite! A great snack on the way to class. Plus, it was turning out to be a sunny day; people were splayed about in the quad, doing work or sunbathing, and I spent a few moments sitting in the grass and listening to music, relishing the warmth that I knew would be gone in the blink of an eye. 


My afternoon class is RHET205/GSFS204 (it’s a course in the Rhetoric department that is cross-listed with GSFS; this is a fancy way of saying it covers topics relevant to both departments, so it counts as a class for both majors). The class is called Rhetorics of Gender Non-Conformity in Film, and it seems like a pretty cool class! The syllabus made me excited about developing my writing skills even further, which is something I've been pushing myself to do lately. The professor was sweet, but for this class ice breaker, we had to go around and name every person in the room after we introduced ourselves! Talk about stress...my memory was not prepared. But hey, I got everybody's name right, and was able to reconnect with a few friends from last year who were also in the class, so it was nice!


Class went a little over time, ironically, perhaps karma making up for me being freed early from my morning class. I headed home to unload my heavy backpack and check on Goose. We cuddled for a bit, and then I pulled out a book I’m reading for a virtual book club I’m a part of. This month’s read is The Municipalists by Seth Fried. It’s really good, and is a funky sci-fi novel that’s right up my alley. I was soon interrupted, though, by the lovely and talkative Goose.  She was meowing incessantly at me, begging for food. Even though I usually only feed her in the evenings, I was feeling a little generous today, so I gave her a tiny scoop to hold her over, which I think she was grateful for. That reminded me that I needed to eat dinner! The things you forget after a long day of classes. I texted a few friends and we decided to meet at Stevie for dinner. The sun had set, and the temperature had unfortunately thus dropped, so I reluctantly pulled out my puffy winter coat and headed over. 


Ah, Stevie. Pretty much the most central dining hall on campus, and the one closest to whatever you can imagine a traditional college dining hall looks like. It was swarming, as it usually is around this time. As I waited in line for food, all around me were squeals and calls across the large hall as friends reunited after being gone for Winter Term. I ended up picking out the create-your-own rice bowl, where the chefs cook your food to order right in front of you. After grabbing some water and a little cookie to enjoy after my meal, I sat down with my friends Pip, Claire, Alex, Aidan, and Katie, and we caught up over our steaming plates of rice and chicken. 


My friend Pip came over after dinner to see Goose - I like to joke that Goose is the way that I get friends to come over to my place so I can socialize. It’s partially a poke at myself, and partially true, if I’m honest. We had a good long chat - we hadn’t seen each other in months up to this point,  and we were pretty close from last year, so it was great to catch up and have some deep conversation together. 


It was time. I had avoided it in the couple days since I’d moved in, but my hair, as short as it is, was suffering in greasy hell underneath my beanie all day, so I decided to take a shower. And honestly? It wasn’t too bad. My friend, who has lived in the same dorm that I am now living in, warned me that it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but if anything, my only conclusion was that it was tiny as hell. I barely fit in the stall and had to shuffle my feet just to tilt my head away from the stream of water so I could shampoo my hair. But I’m not picky when it comes to showers, truly; as long as the water is warm and there’s at least a minimal amount of pressure, and I’m hidden from anybody who walks through to get to the bathroom stalls, I’m happy. 


My motivation to go to bed early...existed. So I went with it. I know for a fact that I will quickly start to lose motivation to go to bed early in preparation for whatever I have going on the following morning. In fact, as I’m writing this, I have already started to slip. But I packed up a tote bag for my yoga class the following morning, and crawled into bed, falling asleep to a Harry Potter audiobook and my cat purring next to me.

And there you have it, folks. My first day back at school! It was a whirlwind, that’s for sure. Would you like to see more content like this? Comment below and let me know what you think, and if you want more day-in-the-life style content! I have a different schedule every other day, so there’s always something new going on in my life that I can write about. I'm also thinking about releasing a video and written series about how I study and write papers; where I study, the people I get advice from, what it's like to go to office hours, that kind of thing, so let me know your thoughts! I’m excited to be back on the blogs after being away, and can’t wait to write more for you to read. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

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