Oberlin Blogs

Letter from an Occupant

November 30, 2023

Marcus Jensen '27

I don’t think I’m the only one who worried about connecting with other people once I got to college. Yes, I had talked with my roommate over the summer, but as I’m sure we’re all aware by now (thanks, zoom school!) knowing someone through a facetime screen doesn’t always translate to real life. There are a million complexities to people that don’t come through when you can’t see them face to face, and I was anxious about that. What if I hated my completely random roommate - did I miss an opportunity to pick one from the list of compatible people? What if my hall consisted of jerks? What if I couldn’t access music because I wasn’t in the Con? What if, what if, what if… All irrational, elementary school fears, sure, but that does not make them any less true.

How accurate were my fears?

Move-in day finally rolled around and (thanks to the football team!) everything got into the dorm relatively quickly. Posters went up on walls, the mattress topper was installed (seriously, get one), and the closet was quickly filled with clothes. I knew that neither I nor my roommate had planned to bring a rug, and if Minnesota winters had taught me anything, it was that floors of any material get colder much faster than one would think possible. There were posters for the free store in the basement of Asia House, and so, with a mission firmly in mind (find floor covering), my roommate and I set off for the store. Unfortunately, with us being new to campus, our plan hit a snag fairly quickly. We knew a sort of vague direction for where we were going but with no specifics for where the store was, we ended up lost in the warren of pathways behind Stevie. We wandered for a fair amount of time before finally being pointed in the correct direction by a friendly staff member, but when we arrived at the store it was already bustling and picked over by people who did, in fact, know where they were going and had gotten there before us. With few options left, I picked up a slightly suspicious blue towel and said something to the effect of ‘I guess this is the best we can do.’ My roommate looked at the towel, saw my earnestly determined face, and burst out laughing. After a second, I joined in, because who in their right mind would put this stained towel on the floor in lieu of a rug? (Me. It was me, because despite this opportunity to put the towel back I insisted on trying it. It had all the efficacy of a giant banana peel and slipped us up many times before meeting an ignominious end at the bottom of a trash bin.) So no, I did and do not hate my roommate. Picking someone you like or know is also a great option, but don’t be afraid of trying something completely new - you might be surprised at who you get to know.

Speaking of surprising people you get to know, my next fear regarded my hallmates. After the aforementioned towel debacle, I was chatting with my roommate on the floor when our across-the-hall neighbors poked their heads in through the open door and struck up a conversation regarding some of the posters on our walls. What started out as a potentially one-minute conversation turned into a night-long discussion (complete with post-road-trip cookies!) regarding anything and everything - Dazed and Confused, Medieval Welsh, Hildegard von Bingen, Jane Eyre, and gay pirates, among other things. In a few weeks, we would squeeze 12 people into that same room for some college-budget dessert and Legally Blonde (followed by the first half of Clueless!). So no, my hallmates were not jerks, and yet again I learned that reaching out is daunting, but necessary - you never know who you might meet.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying music is one of the main reasons I applied to Oberlin. I knew that the Conservatory was world-renowned, the artists it produced legendary, and the music itself inspired, but I was concerned that there might have been a separation between College and Con, preventing me from being able to experience it fully. Fortunately for me, it was quickly established that there was not, in fact, any sort of divide that blocked anyone from experiencing whatever music they’d like to. I’m now taking an intro to music history class (with two friends of mine who are also not in the Conservatory!) and a music of the 1970s class, saw the Emerson String Quartet at Finney Chapel and Fig at the Cat in the Cream, and have walked across so many concerts that I had no idea were even happening (punk in Tappan, folk music at Wilder, experimental classical outside the Con - the list goes on). So no, not being in the Con does not block you from experiencing and participating in music in the slightest. You only have to look around, pick a direction, and go to a concert.

If I was in the business of writing fables and not blog posts, I suppose the moral of this story would be to put yourself out there and try new things - but fortunately for me (and, I suspect, you, dear reader) I am not the second coming of Aesop and there are both no talking animals nor a direct lesson to be had from these few anecdotes. I leave you, then, to make what you will of the past 950 or so words, and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

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