Oberlin Blogs

A Letter to Pre-Oberlin Me

January 13, 2023

Charlize Villasenor ’23

In the last few weeks, I finished the Fall 2022 semester. Being so close to seeing my degree, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about who I am, who I was, and what I’ve learned in my time at Oberlin. To best describe the growth I’ve had in the last four years, I figured it would be best to write to a 17-year-old me.

Charlize (17),

After spending your whole life in one city, are you ready to move to another town and state on the other side of the country? Don’t worry if you’re nervous, you’ll go through the phases of loving it, feeling homesick, and then loving it again—probably every year, even though no one will tell you that. I wish I could prepare you for the wild ride that will be your college experience, but not knowing is what helps you grow and enjoy all the ups and downs.

I’m sure you’re still worried about making friends. Let me tell you something that I’m sure you’ve heard before but never really committed to memory. The friends you make on day one probably won’t be the friends you graduate with—and that’s okay! During the first few weeks, everyone is just like you, scrambling to make friends. They’re a bit more extroverted and more agreeable than normal, but just because it seems like everyone loves that one filmmaker, or indie band, or niche subject you’ve never heard of doesn’t mean you have to pretend to like it. As corny as it sounds, just be yourself. There’s no use in pretending to be someone you’re not to make friends when friends who have similar interests and personalities will come your way eventually. In your case, you’ll gain one of your closest friends at the end of your first semester, and the two of you will help each other grow, but sadly you will need to let go when she transfers to a school closer to home because of COVID. No fear, though, you’ll find an amazing set of friends that you meet by living in identity housing during a semester that goes unexpectedly well. 

That’s probably one of the most important lessons you’ll learn—don’t expect life to go one way or another. You will have amazing opportunities that you wouldn’t have dreamed of, but you’ll also be disappointed in some outcomes. Honestly, a lot of it won’t matter in the long run. Yes, there will be times when you need something that you’re not able to get for one reason or another like an extra job or extra time on some assignments—yes, it will be less than optimal at the moment—but you will live and enjoy your semester regardless. At the end of your time at Oberlin, your memories will mostly consist of the nights you spent watching reality tv with your roommates, or the Halloween and Jazz parties you would convince your friends to go to, cooking for your co-op, getting ‘congratulations’ emails and more so the nights you felt loved by and in love with your life. 

Even though you might not understand what a co-op is right now, joining it will be one of the best ways you connect with your community and with your body. Learning how to make meals that satisfy you and those you care about will become a healing practice for you. You might grumble about waking up by 10am on weekends to ensure you're ready to cook by 11am, but you’ll learn there’s no better or more peaceful way to start your day. The community you build through your co-op will bring you joy and bring you out of your shell (yes, you’re shy and you don’t even realize it). They will be a lasting memory in your Oberlin experience.

Four years is a long time, but it will go by incredibly fast. I’m especially grateful now that I wrote for the Oberlin Blogs. It served as a job, but also as a way to keep a journal about my life at Oberlin. Thoughts don’t have to be perfect to be kept. I wish I could have started a journal sooner, as a way to encourage myself and keep reminders of how far I’ve come. Growth isn’t linear; I didn’t wake up every day knowing I was 1% more mature than the day before. Some days I just realized that I responded to a situation differently than I would have six months or one year prior. Sometimes, the hope of having those eureka moments is all that can keep us going. 

Over these next four years, there will be hard times—but don’t be discouraged; sometimes the journey is difficult but rewarding in the end. There will be countless days and nights that you’ll hold in your heart, maybe too many to fully remember, but I promise you’ll love the experience and you’ll grow exactly into who you need to be. You’ll be just fine.

Always here guiding you, 

Charlize (21)

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