Oberlin Blogs

Giving Up "The College Experience"

October 27, 2016

Sarah Dalgleish ’20

I'm from Boulder, a big college town, so I spent my entire childhood surrounded by college life and students. When I turned seven, I had my birthday party at the university bowling lanes. Every Friday afternoon in elementary school, my soccer coach would take our team to the school's soccer games. From a very early age, I developed a specific idea of what college looked like. I thought it meant a huge, sprawling campus, throngs of decked out students in stadiums that held 50,000 people, and frat parties that snowballed into burning furniture on the front lawn. For a long time, the college experience was all about "big" to me.

But when it came time to start applying to schools, I found myself drawn to a very different type of experience. The more I looked into small liberal arts schools, the more I was sure I wanted to go to one. I applied to several, as well as to the university in my hometown. Even though that school was different from what I knew I was looking for, giving up the idea of going there was harder than I expected. I was afraid that at a small liberal arts school like Oberlin, I would miss out on the "true college experience." I had to choose between living in a small town in Ohio and being a member of an freshman class that was roughly the same size as that entire town. I had to decide if I wanted to go somewhere where I would not know a single person, or somewhere that 300 members of my graduating class were also going.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn't choosing between two equal options. I was choosing between what I wanted out of college and what I thought I should want out of college. It was true that Oberlin wouldn't give me the college experience I had seen so many people go through in my hometown, that I would miss out on some of the big school experiences they had. But what I discovered was that those experiences weren't ones I actually wanted to have. And at Oberlin, they would be replaced by other, arguably more out-there, activities that meant more to me. Once I had this revelation, the choice was easy. I picked what I wanted. I went to Oberlin.

So many people asked why in the world I was leaving scenic mountain views to go to the middle of Ohio; it was incomprehensible to them. But the answer to me is remarkably simple: because I am happy here. Back home, I would beg my friends to go to poetry slams with me then drag one or two reluctantly along. My first week at Oberlin, 17 of my friends accompanied me to see the incredibly talented poet Aja Monet perform. I was so ecstatic I cried. I haven't been to any tailgates on weekends, but I slept in a tent at the Allen Memorial Art Museum all night for art rental. Instead of going to packed football games, I went to a packed convocation speech given by Michele Norris--one of my role models. By no means am I having what, by my own definition, would be considered the normal college experience. But if I am giving up "The College Experience," I could not be more willing to do so in order to have my college experience.

I have been here about a two months now, and still almost every day I look around--at the parade of endlessly creative outfits that pass by while eating dinner in Stevie, at the view of Peters from a womb chair in Mudd, at the professors I have who are so eager to share their passions with us--and I think I can't believe this is actually my life. I feel beyond lucky to have found a place that aligns with my interests and values as much as Oberlin does and being here with people who feel the same way has been, though still short, one of the best parts of my life so far.

The other day, my friend asked if I am homesick at all. I explained to her that while I miss the people, the familiarity, the mountains (how do you tell which way is west in Ohio?), I can't be homesick because at Oberlin, I am home.

Leave a Comment

Similar Blog Entries