Oberlin Blogs

Firsts and Lasts

May 21, 2010

Alice Ollstein ’10

Yesterday I finished college.

I woke up, put the final edits on my Nabokov paper, turned it in, ate my last co-op meal, returned home and wondered...now what?

Of course, I still have a ton to do. I have job applications to work on, four years' worth of stuff to somehow pack, people to see, etc. But I had to take a minute to sit on my porch and process the fact that I'm about to be something other than a student.

Though I've been getting very emotional in certain situations lately, I am not sad to graduate. I am more than ready to live in a city, find my own place, work a job that I (hopefully) care about, and be a real person! Not that these things don't scare me, and not that I dislike Oberlin's small, enclosed environment. It's been an incredible space to figure out who I am, what I like, what I don't like, what matters to me, and what I want to do about it. But it is time to leave. I've come to the end and have been experiencing a lot of "lasts" and a few surprising "firsts." Here are some highlights from the past few weeks:

I led my last Nicaragua Sister Partnership committee meeting last Sunday, which was sad and wonderful all at the same time. I gave the following speech, which I wrote beforehand, knowing I would get too teary to say anything articulate off-the-cuff. I hope it shows how much the Partnership has meant to me since I joined sophomore year, and how excited I am for all the incredible work they have ahead of them.

"This committee and project has shaped my worldview, completely shifted my priorities in life, and given me by far my most meaningful college experiences. I've learned far more with the Partnership than in any class, connected more with other Obies and the community, and done work that I feel matters. I'm so proud of all the work you have done, going far beyond the one hour of co-op credit you receive. Your passion, dedication, and creativity have inspired me and kept me going in this work whenever I've felt burnt out. It's been an absolute joy to serve as coordinator this year, to hear your thoughtful responses and nuanced ideas on solidarity and international relationships and the drive you have to continue what we've started. Because of that I'm not worried at all about the future of the Partnership. Please keep me informed on all the amazing things you do, and know that wherever I am I will do what I can to support you."

Then on Thursday I took the girls from the Nicaragua Winter Term trip out to sample the international culinary delights of Cleveland. We ate delicious Ethiopian food, and then, because we didn't want to go back to Oberlin and study for finals, we made our way over to Little Italy for some delicious gelato. We talked a lot about how we're still processing what we experienced on the trip and how the work we've done on the committee has helped us deal with some of those feelings (helplessness, gratitude, etc.). I told them my main way for working through my emotions has been writing. I just published a piece about the Winter Term trip in Wilder Voice magazine, which just came to campus and looks more beautiful and professional than any campus publication I've ever seen. I hope I find equally wonderful venues for my stories once I leave.

In other news, I'll be able to eat this summer during my unpaid internship with my winnings from Oberlin's book collection contest! I won second place for my collection of editions of Alice in Wonderland in different languages and with different illustrations. I had the best pieces of my collection sent from home (Russian, Japanese, Napolese, German, and French) to be on display in the library. Here are some photos!

Alice shows a library display case containing several books

An open book in a glass case

It was lovely to be supported by Oberlin for my existing nerdy hobby. They even gave me a book about Alice in Wonderland as a gift when I came to take down my display.

The week ahead of me, leading up to graduation on the 31st, is sure to have many more firsts and lasts. Stay tuned to see Alice become a giant nostalgic softie.

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