Oberlin Blogs

Looking Back on My First Year

May 2, 2022

Phoebe McChesney ’25

My roommate and I frequently talk about how it seems like just yesterday we arrived on campus, hauling our luggage up three flights of stairs, or into the ancient, rickety Victorian-esque elevator in Noah Hall that looks like something straight from a horror movie.

As first-years, we had each received orientation schedules, information bulletins on dining options, and, of course, campus maps. We spent the first few days here walking around and locating important places, mainly our buildings and classrooms, and kept our eyes peeled for the infamous white squirrel (who, unfortunately, was not on the map).

A few weeks later, we no longer needed to consult our handy-dandy location experts. And as the first semester got underway, and then the second began, the rest of the school year passed in a blur. I had my work schedule(s), class lists, and dutifully put every obligation into my Google calendar. I developed a semblance of an informal routine and enjoyed getting into the swing of things.

With the last semester of my freshman year coming to a close, and finals upon us in a little less than a month, I’ve decided to look back on my first year at Oberlin and offer some advice, some expectations, and some observations (as detailed in the summary of this article).


1. When they say small class sizes, they MEAN small class sizes

If and when you come to campus, your biggest class will probably be around forty students, and your smallest, at roughly fourteen. Depending on where you come from, classes here may be even smaller than your high school ones. Expect slight variations in sizes depending on the popularity of the course/major, but also know that in most classes you have a solid opportunity to get to know professors quite well because there are so few students. Take advantage of that. (This is advice for me too!)


2. Community bubble

Oberlin is located in the middle of farmland in rural Ohio. Walk a few blocks further north than North Quad and you’ll hit it. So, that means a lot of the activity happens on-campus in a community bubble, if you will. This means that you’ll be able to make close connections with people on-campus and the relationships you build will likely be especially meaningful too.


3. Expect change or impermanence

What I’ve noticed as an intended Politics major and in some of my introductory courses is that I get quite a few visiting professors or PhD candidates as teachers. They won't be at Oberlin for extended periods of time. But it is helpful getting used to various teaching styles and learning the different ways people from different institutions present information. I think of it as getting exposure to a diversity of intellectual communication.


4. Take advantage of cool lectures/presentations by faculty

Sometimes professors will present research on an area that they’re studying. And these talks tend to be open to students. There have been a few interesting Geology lectures I’ve wanted to attend, but haven’t gotten the opportunity because of scheduling conflicts. But I always love learning about topics outside my major area of study, and the extra credit offered by my professor to just go and learn from them was also a pretty attractive draw. I’m actually pretty bummed out that I didn’t get to attend any because it’s just an interesting opportunity to tickle my brain.


5. Unpredictable weather calls for appreciation of nice days

So, Ohio weather can be very up in the air (pun intended). It can rain one day and then be sunny the next. Sometimes there will be sunny, rainy, sleety, and snowy weather all in the same week. Suffice to say, we get all of the seasons. That means, on the good days, spend time outside. You’ll appreciate the nice weather so much more!


That’s it. Five pieces of advice or just mere observations/things to keep in mind when you arrive. Here I bid you adieu!

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