Oberlin Blogs

Just Visiting (For Now)

May 6, 2024

Ava Illi '27

This past weekend involved the crazy ordeal of introducing my little sister to campus. When she first proposed the idea a month ago, having realized her Spring Break perfectly aligned with the week before the thought of Finals was gonna start really kicking in over here, I was a little weary. This is my little sister we’re talking about. And yeah, she’s sixteen and goes to a performing arts school in New York City. There’s not much that fazes her these days. The thing about Oberlin, though, is that I thought there wasn’t much that could faze me either before I got here (cue pagan rituals and Jell-O wrestling). 

Despite this, I figured a weekend on campus would be just the thing she needed at the beginning of her quest for a potential college to attend. It would be my own little covert experiment to test how alike we really are and how prepared she is to go out into the real world. 

Turns out, she’s much more prepared than I am. The first thing she did when she walked into my dorm was shame me for the absolute mess I had let it fester into since she helped move me in. I should have expected this - just because I’m the oldest does NOT in any way mean I’m the more responsible one. That duty was not listed in the job description. But I had forgotten how truly nit-picky she was about laundry, clutter, and the toxicity levels of moldy pastries - all sources of minor inconvenience. Really, she was being so dramatic. 

We continued the day with an extensive itinerary involving non-city-kid friendly activities, such as walking in grass. She was a trooper, though. And there were enough dance recitals to attend and bands to listen to that she was having a great time regardless. 

I got to take her to see a great band at the ‘Sco, an on-campus venue hosting events that range from TGIF popcorn celebrations to performances from touring bands. It took me a second to realize that her typical weeknight was different from mine - dinner and homework were more what she had in mind, so needless to say, she was very into the whole thing. She thought I was gonna let her study for her AP test at some point. She was quite mistaken. 

She even got to experience her first co-op open meal, meaning that the typical dinner (members of food co-ops aren’t on the standard meal plan - they share cooking and cleaning shifts and get to eat their home-cooked meals together at the co-op) was now open to everyone who wanted to stop by. We all sat outside and had a delicious meal of fried tofu over rice, and she’s still talking about the blueberry muffins to this day. It was kind of freaky when I realized my first time on campus had also happened to involve an open meal at this exact co-op (go Pyle!). She was following in my footsteps of finding the most Oberlin-esque things to do on the first visit. We ended up, in usual Pyle fashion, discussing things like pet hedgehogs and dyed armpit hair. As it happens, the most characteristic aspects of Oberlin are typically some of the coolest - and this Pyle meal was no different. 

The best part of it all was seeing her interact with the friends I've made since the beginning of the year. I had no idea how it would play out - high school, while only a year behind most of us, feels like worlds away. I was worried they’d have nothing to talk about. Soon enough though, Amelia made the same discovery I did after the first minute of meeting the people I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with for the past two semesters. The people are really the best part of this school. Within no time, they were laughing and sharing stories in the circle of lounge chairs as if this were just another average week - they had adopted her into the group as if they had known her as long as I had, and I could see her opening up more and more with each conversation. 

By the time she had to leave, she was devastated about having to return to the monotonous grind of school in the city. "Why do you have such great friends, dude? You suck!” was her way of letting me know she absolutely loved it here. Every time we ended one activity, she’d always ask for the next, and we’d whisk her off to something even more exciting with even more opportunities to see and interact with raw talent and the friendliest of faces. She wasn’t thinking she’d use this as a seriously informative visit for her college consideration because she was pretty certain after high school that art schools weren’t for her. As she was packing up her suitcase to leave, though, she asserted that she was definitely going to apply in her senior year. I, the person who she’ll disagree with on the color of the sky just to disagree with, had somehow managed to change her mind about how great this place is. She hadn't adopted one of my opinions in ages - seriously, it took her five years to listen to Queen because I had a phase in eighth grade she couldn’t brush off. It was a much bigger step than I could’ve hoped for as a constantly-disputed older sister. 

It’s funny how this place naturally does that to people. My sister and I have always been such different people - she hates reading, and I think I would rather battle a subway rat than have to do a math problem (OK, that’s an exaggeration. I hate nothing more in this world than rats. I am aware of the irony here. My life is so hard). She worships Taylor Swift like a god and (I know, this is dangerous territory) I can barely stand the nostalgic songs I do like off of 1989. Our tastes are different, sometimes aggressively so. Nevertheless, she was completely won over! That’s another great thing about this place. Oberlin isn’t for one single kind of person. It’s full of diverse and intermingling interests, experiences, and ideas. 

This experience reminded me of the uncertain expectations I had going into college, and how I never realized I would fall in love with the place so quickly. And there was never a definitive moment where I had decided I had - there was never even a moment to decide. I knew the feeling as I saw her expression change from reserved intrigue to a sense of belonging and curiosity to explore more. She was hooked, even if only for this brief visit. I have a feeling she hasn’t seen the end of this place. I may not be the best reader of her ever-changing adolescent mind, but I have a feeling.

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