Oberlin Blogs

Haircuts in the Bathroom and Other Liberal Arts College Experiences

March 5, 2019

Emma McIlhagga ’22

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that Oberlin is a liberal arts college - and it’s probably one of the most liberal-artsiest schools around. I came to Oberlin pretty much assimilated to my high school’s social culture, which was very preppy/white/basic. I didn’t really see myself changing much of my appearance or identity in relationship to the new environment. But then, within the first week, I had already bought a '90s windbreaker and started drinking copious amounts of chai lattes. None of these are meant to demean or make fun of liberal arts kids (after all, I’m one of them), they’re just meant to recognize all the ways that I have suddenly very much become an Oberlin-liberal-arts-kid student, so that you can get an idea of what some of the student body is like. Don’t worry - we still have your sports kids, preppy kids, music kids - and they’re all valid, and all definitely very present socially at Oberlin.

This list serves to provide you with a fun summary of my liberal arts college experience that isn’t as serious and comprehensive as some other stories of experiences. So here is my checklist ranked in order of I’ve done, most likely to do, might do, and am least likely to do.

Things I’ve Done/Do

  • Started listening to The Smiths
  • Wearing beanies
  • Got wire-rim glasses (to be fair, I need them)
  • Have a nose piercing
  • Started drinking chocolate soy milk religiously (chocolate soy milk is one of the prime commodities of Oberlin)
  • Cut my hair in the dorm bathroom

Yep. I actually did this. Here is some pictorial evidence. I also did it quite impulsively without telling my parents or even some of my friends, so I just sent around an ominous picture of my hair in the bathroom trash can and went to bed, then sent a picture of my actual new hair in the morning. Here’s are some pictures I took of the process for evidence:

A large trash can with a pile of Emma's brown hair at the bottom of it
This is the ominous picture I sent my mom before going to bed that night.
Emma smiling with half of her hair cut and half of her hair long. She is wearing a turquoise shirt and no glasses.
The first chop!
Emma wearing a pink sweater and black jumpsuit, sticking out her tongue and holding a strand of curly hair around one finger to show the length. The hair is just above her shoulders and is brown and blonde.
This was taken a little over a week before I decided to cut my hair
A picture of Emma wearing a turquoise shirt and grinning with one hand on her cheek. Her hair is short and cropped on the sides with a curly swoop of hair on top.
Here is what my hair looks like now!



  • Into tarot and healing crystals
  • String lights everywhere

Yeah, my roommate and I were extremely excited to hang up string lights, just like every other dorm room on campus. I love them though!

  • Empty bottles as decor

This is a weirdly niche thing, but soooo many people do this - bottles or cans used for flowers or as jars for holding things to be ~artsy~

  • Turtlenecks
  • Complaining about how cold it is
  • Hydrating constantly and hydrating specifically with a double-walled stainless steel water bottle covered in stickers (most people have a nalgene but I have the off-brand one from Target)
  • Talk about squirrels

But to be fair, Oberlin does have albino squirrels. It’s our unofficial mascot. Like literal albino squirrels, and I’m not joking. It’s also not an elaborate lie constructed by the college to get you to come here. (Dad if you’re reading this, I know you think they’re a myth but I swear to you they are real.) But we do have really cool squirrels, seriously.

  • Shamefully skipped one of my seminars despite its having 10 people in it so the professor definitely knew I was gone
  • DIY crop-tops or cut-off jeans


Things I Might Do

  • Stick-and-poke tattoos!

I have yet to experience this myself, but this is definitely a liberal arts college thing. A little triangle or a heart, something minimalist and cute is bound to be found on the body of at least one person who you pass on the way to your afternoon class. They’re super cool, and I applaud the people who can not only make the commitment but have the pain tolerance to get one.

  • “What time were you born?” (aka astrology stuff)

I’m not actually into this yet, but what with my affinity for healing crystals and tarot cards, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next few months I get super knowledgeable about astrology. I do pay attention to my horoscope, but I only take it to heart and believe it when it’s something good or something that I like.

  • Identify as a Plant Parent

My roommate and I had so many plants that we neglected. So I’m not a Plant Parent yet but maybe I’ll become more responsible and have the maturity and ability to care for plants in the future.

  • Called a professor “Mom”

I mean, especially at Oberlin, we get pretty close with our professors. Heck, there’s nights at the on-campus disco where you can go and have drinks with your professor! Most professors also have you call them by their first names so the focus is more on learning and less on establishing a hierarchy. This means that it’s probably inevitable that I will be calling a professor Mom one day. I’ll report back if this ever happens…

  • Get Doc Martens

It feels like everyone, and I mean e v e r y o n e on this campus has a pair of Doc Martens. That 10-person seminar class is also a 9-pairs-of-Doc-Martens class. (Me being the one who doesn’t.) And I’ll be the first to admit that they’re growing on me. The price, however, is not - I’ll report back on this after I get my tax returns.

Things I’m Least Likely to Do

  • Be that one kid who honestly never wears shoes.

No, it’s not everyone, but yes, it’s true. There are some kids who just don’t wear shoes here. I’m all for everyone being their own person and making their own choices for their bodies, but the one kid who was in my PAL cohort just never wore shoes, and I have to tell you that I haven’t seen him since our last class meeting before the first serious snowfall on campus. I have no idea what happened to him (and honestly, he’s probably just got classes on the other side of campus from me) but it’s gotta be connected to the lack of shoes. Somehow.

  • Have a septum piercing

I have a  nose piercing, but I don’t have a septum piercing - I genuinely just don’t think it would look good and I don’t think I could pull it off. Some of my good friends have septum piercings and they look awesome, but I’m not that hardcore.

  • Streaking/public nudity for laughs

Apparently this is a liberal arts thing, and I think I saw a Facebook event once for streaking somewhere on campus. Listen. I’m all for bodily autonomy, your body your choice, everyone can do whatever they want. But my body? Will not be streaking. Anywhere. Period.

  • Shave my head

I mean, maybe I will be confident enough to do this in the future, but right now, I’m good with the length I have.

  • Drink kombucha

Honestly, ew.

So there you have it, there's my big ol' bucket list of liberal arts college experiences. Hopefully this gives you an idea of what it can be like to go to school at a place like Oberlin and have a blast making some fun (albeit impulsive) decisions and being an independent adult living your best life!

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