Exactly 365 days ago, I was visiting Oberlin for a second time. After forging my way through near-crippling anxiety, Stevie’s bewildering architecture, a cute lil March blizzard, and four classes between 9 AM and 2:30 PM (please for the love of all that is good in this world, prospies, do NOT do this, you WILL be exhausted), I knew for sure that I HAD to come to this school. My Oberlin experience has come full circle in strange ways. My Arthurian Fictions course is taught by one of the professors who taught a class I sat in on a year ago (23/10, would take class from Jennifer Bryan again). One of the students in Arthurian Fictions is someone who I remember seeing in the Baroque Italian Art class I observed, who remains one of the most brilliant students I have encountered at Oberlin. A lecture hall in the psych building (Severance Hall) that I once associated with being horribly lost and scared I now associate with a great guest lecture I attended about applying classical psychology principles in a clinical setting. The dance space where I watched a student and teacher rehearse a piece is a place I myself have inhabited on many occasions, the teacher a woman who taught me many things about movement and my identity as a dancer. To think that so much has changed in just one year is astounding.
About a year ago, I was on a tour of schools in the Ohio and Pennsylvania region to aid in my college search. I had done all of my previous college visits during the summer when there were no students around, so visiting campuses with people there was really different. I highly recommend it, because actually seeing a student body and interacting with it is extremely valuable in determining if the school has that elusive “fit” the admissions gods tell us so much about. Oberlin was the first school I applied to (I submitted my app ridiculously early, like October 3rd), and was the last school I found out from if I had gotten in or not. Yet, towards the end of my process, I was still undecided between Oberlin, and my
second other choice, Case Western Reserve University. One of the largest factors at play was the size of the respective schools and their locations. CWRU is in Cleveland and has about twice the number of students Oberlin has, while Oberlin is in a small town and has about 3000 students, which I find now to be the perfect size. The opportunities a city affords were certainly attractive, and I worried that I would become bored in Oberlin, or feel stifled somehow. More on how that is 4000% false in a minute. Also, in some weird irrational way, I felt as if I were choosing between two potential romantic partners. I had fallen for Oberlin, and even though CWRU was a great option with many things to recommend it, and would have been a great decision, Oberlin still had my heart. Like many other graduating high school seniors, I dealt with some low-key psychomachia (great word: Arthurian Fictions makes your vocab expansive. I also know a lot of words for “red” and can now say that I am “passing wroth” instead of “angry.” But I digress) over my college choice, but I can now say with the utmost confidence that Oberlin was the right choice for me, and I’m infinitely glad that things worked out the way they did.
One of the things I mentioned above was my concern that I would be bored in Oberlin; or rather, that I would have “more things to do” in Cleveland. This is simply not true. Oberlin students are good at making themselves busy, sometimes a little too good (my ExCo co-instructor’s Google Calendar alarms me every time I look at it). But, if you find yourself at Oberlin with time to fill, there are always way more interesting events happening than you could possibly go to. A fun fact: so far this academic year, even while taking 18 credit hours, going to meals, making time to see my friends, sleeping a reasonable amount, and doing all my homework in a timely manner, I have managed to go to 51 concerts/shows/plays etc. Last semester alone I went to 37. Thirty-seven!!! I usually try to go to 2-3 events a week on average, but on occasion I have gone to four or five. These events range from circus shows to senior dance performance, operas to historical lute concerts, symphony orchestras to poetry slams, mainstage plays in big theaters to more intimate and hilarious improv shows. And the best part? The most I have ever paid for a ticket to any of these events was $10, maybe $15, and most of them are free. All the money I spend at Oberlin is on tickets, chai lattes, and treats from Blue Rooster. As a student with little income, the low or nonexistent cost of tickets is great. Another amazing thing about being here and having a brand new group of friends is that I have been exposed to different forms of art that I never would have imagined encountering: many of these because my friends themselves are involved in these shows or practice the art the show involves (examples: one friend was in a weird French play over Winter Term that I got to see, another did circus arts for 10 years and encourages us to go to circus shows, and another is a classical guitarist in the Con and promotes all the guitar-related events. I have so many weird and cool niche interests now!). Sometimes my friends lovingly tease me about how many concerts and shows I manage to make the time for. I have no shame in being a slightly scarily frequent audience member. I am aware of how special this place is, and I want to take advantage of it as long as I can.
At the end of the day, this isn’t to say that you have to go to all the events always. Sometimes, by the end of the week, I am really exhausted and just want to spend time with my friends or calling my family. If I don’t feel like going to a concert, I don’t. But the fact that the option is there is something that is uniquely Oberlin and that you won’t find at every school. Even though the town and the college are small, and can feel like a bit of a bubble, this is the most vibrant and stimulating bubble I’ve ever found myself inside. I am so happy that, one whole March 17th later, I am still in awe of this place I get to call my new home. I can’t wait to see what the next 3.25 years have in store.