Oberlin Blogs

Moving Out: A Reflection On My First-Year Dorm

May 18, 2019

Claire O’Brocta ’23

Leaves are finally on the trees, classes have ended, and it’s finals week here in Oberlin! This week, most people can be found studying, taking exams, writing papers, and finding time somewhere in between to pack the last eight and a half months of our lives into boxes so we can move out of our dorms.

For me, moving out of my dorm is a bittersweet experience. On one hand, I’ll be back in Oberlin next year (and many more after that … as a first-year, double-degree, I still have four more years here), but on the other, I live in Kahn, a first-year only dorm, so I’ll never have the chance to live here again.

When I got my dorm assignment back in August, I was excited to live in Kahn for all of the obvious reasons. It’s the newest dorm, the only traditional housing that’s entirely air-conditioned, and it has a sustainability theme, which is something that I’m passionate about. I still love Kahn for those reasons, but I’ve added so many more since then, and now that it’s time to move out, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the new reasons I’ve added over the course of the year.

I’m going to start out with hands down, the best part of living in Kahn from my experience: the community. I’ve made some of my best friends here at Oberlin simply through the proximity of our rooms! It works so well because Kahn is divided into five separate halls of just under 30 people each.

Upon entering each hall, you step straight into a lounge with a TV, furniture, and a huge floor-to-ceiling window. That lounge opens up into a gradually narrowing hallway lined with everyone’s rooms. Being able to see everyone hanging out in the lounge as soon as you leave your room or return from a long day of classes makes it easy to stop by to talk or hang out, whether it’s just for a few minutes or for hours on end.


A dorm lounge, featuring chairs, tables, a TV, and a large window. Through the window, trees and the side of another building can be seen.
The lounge in Kahn where my friends and I hang out, featuring our view of Stevie, the dining hall next door.


My friends from my hall and I did everything in our lounge: game nights, movie nights, group study sessions, Mario Kart tournaments, jam sessions, you name it! That room and the community fostered inside is something I’m going to miss so much next year. (Although I’m sure we’ll find a new lounge to take over somewhere!)

Aside from the lounge, one of the big factors of the community created in Kahn was definitely the fact that we were all first-years. Most of us went in knowing few (if any) people at Oberlin, and since we were all searching for friends, being surrounded by other first-years made it easy to find them! I know Barrows, another first-year dorm at Oberlin, also became very communal in this respect this year, so this definitely isn‘t exclusive to life in Kahn.

One of my other favorite things about Kahn is my room itself. This year, I’ve lived in an open double with a great roommate. In August, I arrived on campus before my roommate, so I got to choose the layout of the furniture in our room, something I was looking forward to all summer! When I got my room assignment, I immediately scoured the internet (including the Oberlin Blogs!) for pictures of the rooms in Kahn. This research was mostly so I could see how big the rooms were relative to the furniture inside them, and draw out possible layouts. (I was clearly very excited about this.)

Unlike some dorms which have a built-in “wall of storage” containing closets and shelves, all of the furniture in the rooms in Kahn, which includes one bookshelf and two desks, beds, closets, and sets of drawers, is moveable, leaving lots of freedom in how it’s arranged.

The layout I ended up choosing relied on the fact that in our specific room, our window and door were directly opposite each other, both on the left side of the room. The left wall, connecting the window’s wall with the door’s, became our desk wall. The side closer to the door became home to my desk, and the side closer to the window belonged to my roommate. We put our shared bookshelf in between the desks to divide them. In terms of approximate furniture size, our desks were each four feet wide, the bookshelf was two, and we each left about three feet of space in between our desks and the door and window, respectively.


Two dorm room desks, side by side, with a bookshelf in the middle. Various office items are scattered atop the desks.
My desk (left) and my roommate's desk (right) on move in day, before we had done much decorating, and before my roommate had put her chest of drawers under her bed!
Two desks, side by side, decorated with many trinkets, and a bookshelf, also very decorated, between them. A string of colorful lights hangs above the desks, and a salt lamp shines on top of the bookshelf.
Our desks once again, except this time at the end of the school year, and significantly more decorated (and messy) than the first day.


The right wall of our room, opposite our desks, was the home of our beds, which were set up parallel to (and directly opposite of) our desks, feet facing each other. Kahn is one of the dorms in Oberlin with fully loftable beds, which my roommate and I both took advantage of, providing plenty of room for storage underneath. Both of us also chose to put the sets of drawers provided to us under our beds, and our closets directly next to the heads of our respective beds. Since our beds were both lofted, the closets (which are three and a half feet wide and about 53 inches tall) were the perfect height to serve double duty as bedside tables. About two and a half feet of open space was left between the feet of our beds, leaving the perfect amount of space for our MicroFridge, a hybrid fridge, freezer, and microwave unit that Oberlin students have the opportunity to rent (and have delivered straight to your room when you move in!). Each of Kahn’s five halls has its own communal fridge and microwave, so it’s not a necessity to rent your own, but it’s a nice (and convenient) option to have.


Furniture in a dorm room, including two beds, a closet, and a set of drawers, all decorated with personal items.
Our beds on the first day, back when my roommate had to use her desk chair as a step stool to get onto her lofted bed. You can also see my closet and chest of drawers, as well as some items we both brought from home.
A close-up view of what is stored under a lofted dorm bed. Items include stackable drawers, a laundry hamper, a set of drawers, and a basket holding cups.
A closer look at what can be fit underneath a lofted bed. My bed isn't fully lofted here, so if it were to go higher, larger items such as a desk could fit as well.


It’s important to note that not all of Kahn’s open doubles are the same size, and the windows and doors aren’t always located where ours were. Most of the rooms on the third floor are also a slightly different shape than the ones on the first and second floors. Something that I wish I knew before moving into Kahn was whether my room was going to have a blue or a red accent wall (the other walls, regardless, are a warm oatmeal beige of sorts), as I had seen pictures of both online. To clear that up, the second floor has blue accent walls, and the first and third floors have red ones. The doors match the color of the accent wall as well, and even the floor is tinted with that color! I love the color blue, so I was very excited to live on the second floor.


A window on the blue accent wall of a dorm room
The view from the top of my lofted bed, featuring a beautiful large window and my blue second floor accent wall, as well as a more updated version of my roommate's side of the room!


This setup worked so well for my roommate and me. It was functional, gave us each our own side of the room, took advantage of the placements of the power outlets (there’s one on each wall!), and left us a lot of floor space in the middle, which made the room feel a lot bigger than it actually was. As much as I’d like to mimic this layout again in my room next year, I won’t be living in an open double anymore! I have a single in a dorm called Noah in the fall, which I am very excited about. With how much I love Kahn, I was a little bit sad to choose a new place to live, but I’m glad I have the opportunity to try something new, both in terms of room occupancy and the building itself. Also, I’m not going to lie, while my roommate this year was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and a good friend of mine, I’m really looking forward to living alone.

I definitely recommend having a roommate as a freshman, though! My roommate became an instant person to talk to when I got to Oberlin, so I never got lonely during those first few weeks where everyone was still trying to settle in. My friend groups in college have certainly evolved significantly since those early days, even in the span of a single school year, but my roommate has always been by my side, which is a nice consistency to have.

If you’re a prospective student or rising first-year who ends up living in Kahn, I want you to take away from this that air conditioning isn’t the only good part of living here! It’s certainly the reason that people in other dorms will be jealous of you during the first few weeks, but once October hits and the AC turns off, that small advantage won’t even matter anymore. Enjoy the flexibility of the rooms, the vibrant blue and red walls, the huge windows, and the lounge space! Kahn also has wonderful custodians that deserve a special shoutout for doing so much for us every day, so make sure to be thankful for them as well. Finally, if you're still curious about Kahn, be sure to check out other bloggers' posts about the dorm. I’m going to miss this place a lot, but now it’s time for new adventures. Happy Summer!

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