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Hardhats, Hairnets, and Horoscopes

October 17, 2021

Claire O’Brocta ’23

As someone who was assigned to the fall and spring semesters for our unusual three-term school year, I wrapped up my junior year of college by the middle of May, packed up, and went back to my hometown. However, due to the sheer amount of friends I had on campus this summer, I wasn’t home long. About a month after leaving, a few of my other fall/spring friends and I moved into an off-campus house in Oberlin, and we spent the rest of the season in Ohio.

Even though I wasn’t enrolled in classes for the summer term, my full vaccination and the reduced COVID restrictions (relative to the previous two semesters) meant I was able to spend a lot of time on campus, and take advantage of several opportunities both there and remotely. Some of the most notable opportunities I had here over the summer include an internship, a job, and two Excos.


For my summer internship, I worked as the Outreach and Communications Intern for Oberlin’s Sustainable Infrastructure Program. Through this program, the college is upgrading our old, crumbling heating and cooling systems with a new, fresh, geothermal alternative. This new system will help bring Oberlin significantly closer to our goal of carbon neutrality by 2025, as well as save a lot of money and water in the long term. This ambitious project involves a lot of digging, as the underground pipes can be replaced, so the campus has had a lot of path closures and detours for students to navigate through. This has presented some challenges, but it will be well worth it for everyone in Oberlin. The campus will be much more sustainable, and the pipes will be much stronger and able to more effectively and efficiently heat us when it’s cold and cool us when it’s warm. Speaking of cooling us when it’s warm, the Sustainable Infrastructure Program also expands air conditioning to more dorms (starting with South this year!), meaning everyone won’t have to be so jealous of people who live in Kahn anymore. You can learn more about the program here. If you’re a first-year or prospective student, I especially recommend you check it out, so you know all of the exciting ways the campus will change over the course of your time as a student here.

My role in this internship had a lot to do with student engagement and social media. I would brainstorm strategies on how to get students interested and more knowledgeable about both the campus project, and carbon neutrality in general. I would then help craft social media posts to assist in the process. I also got to go on weekly tours of the work sites on campus with my fellow sustainability interns, all of whom were involved with the project in one way or another. As an Environmental Studies major, this internship was especially valuable to me. I’m grateful to have found such a good experience right here on campus, where I can do my part to help further environmental causes in my own community.


In addition to my internship, I had another job on campus this summer as a student worker in the dining hall. My main job was to help out in the bake shop, where I did things such as tray up cookie dough and pastries, line muffin tins, ice cinnamon rolls, and label trays of freshly baked goodies so that they were ready to be shipped off to the different dining venues around campus. My favorite part was when I got to use my creative freedom to decorate brownies, slathering them in spring green frosting and mini M&Ms. When I wasn’t needed at the bake shop, I was able to work in other parts of the dining hall, and get a taste (haha, get it, because food?) of several different roles there. Some of these roles included serving students, chopping vegetables, and rolling pizza dough.


When I wasn’t at work or my internship this summer, I could often be found making lecture slides for the Exco I taught. If you’re new to the concept of Excos, you can check out blogs like this one and this one for more information, but the basic rundown is that Excos are non-traditional classes that can be taught by Oberlin students, faculty, staff, and community members. Is there a niche subject you know a lot about? You can make it into a syllabus, send it to the Exco committee during a special submission week each semester, and if it gets approved, congratulations, you’re a teacher now! That’s exactly what I did in March, and by May, I was writing lectures for a credit-bearing college course, which I taught once a week over Zoom. In my case, the non-traditional subject I know a lot about is Astrology. My original idea was to create a course on the basics of Astrology, but by the time I got to actually going through with writing a syllabus, a foundational Astrology class called AstroCo had already been a thing for a few semesters. This inspired me to think outside of the box, and make a class on a different type of Astrology entirely, which is focused on significant events rather than birth charts. It studies long-term movement of the planets, how certain planetary configurations line up with major historical events, and the patterns that can be seen in all of this over time. Since 2020 was such an eventful year, I used its events as a baseline for introducing the subject. I was afraid that my class wouldn’t get approved, since there was already another Astrology Exco. However, since mine was so different, I saw it as a complement to the other Exco, rather than competition. The Exco committee must have agreed with my perspective, because they let me teach the course!

Right before the semester started, when I was all set and ready to teach my Exco, the instructor of the other Astrology Exco reached out to me and asked if I was interested in teaching her class next year, since she had graduated in the spring. I enthusiastically agreed to. Her usual co-instructor wasn’t teaching this summer, so she offered to let me attend class and unofficially co-teach so that I’d be ready to take over in the future. With this, I was up to two Astrology classes per week, and it was a lot of fun! Even though I wasn’t a student, I learned so much from being an Exco instructor, especially through researching information for my lecture slides. I don’t plan on teaching my 2021 course as an Exco again, but I’m definitely excited to officially teach AstroCo next spring.


That wraps up the three main things on my weekly schedule this summer, but the activities didn’t stop there. I spent a lot of time at my house with my friends, which may not sound like much, but it was my first time living with people I knew ahead of time (see my blog on Random Roommates for my previous experiences), and it was so great. Our living room is decked out with color-changing LEDs, a TV, and high-quality speakers. This made for the perfect environment for listening to new albums together every night, and for playing competitive video games like Mario Kart and Smash Ultimate. On Wednesday nights, we’d invite friends over, and my housemate Michael would cook us all homemade chicken tenders, along with a side dish or two. (Occasionally I’d contribute some roasted broccoli!) This served as the latest and greatest iteration of Tendies Night, which I’ve dedicated two blogs to in the past. For the tenderly curious, in fall 2020 and spring 2021, tendies were served at the Rat again, but over the summer, that was put on pause, hence our need to get creative in the kitchen. It was a lot of fun, though, and we plan to continue this new version of tendies night in our senior year.

There are so many more random aspects of the summer semester that I could talk about, from spontaneous hair dyeing parties to seeing live performances in person again, but for now, I’ll end here. We’re two weeks into the fall semester, and there’s lots to do!

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