My Dad Came to Visit: An Oberlin Parent's Perspective—Part 2
I have hit a very special and happy milestone! Everyone in my immediate family has now visited me in Oberlin: mother (and aunt!), sister, and now, father! (all that remains is our labradoodle pup, Earnest). This past week my Dad flew out to Ohio and was able to visit me for about four days and five nights in good ol’ Obieland. He was here long enough that he definitely got the full Obie experience, and also happened to come on a great weekend for music and performances, which I’ll get to a bit later.
Having family visit you in college is nice, but also weird. When I have family here, I go about my normal college schedule, but in my free moments, I get to hang out with a very special person in my life who inhabits a very different place than I do. I also eat at restaurants a lot more and condense as many fun Oberlin things into a four-day timespan as possible. Mostly, it feels like two worlds colliding. It's mostly like: You’re my person! In my place? But a place you don’t know, and I do? Can confirm, it's a very odd experience, but a very happy odd.
Most of the extended weekend my dad spent here consisted of traipsing through the woods and eating massive quantities of breakfast food. My dad arrived on a Wednesday and luckily, I was done with all my obligations by 4:30 pm, so we could spend the evening together. The sudden November snow was a bit of a shock for both of us, so we went to the Oberlin Hotel for drinks (I’m a real boy!), got some dinner, and did some much-needed catching-up in nice indoor spaces. On Thursday morning, we met at Slow Train, where my dad gave the coffee his stamp of approval (this is a man who owns his own fancy schmancy espresso machine) and we did some work together. That day I was able to take him to two of my four (!) classes I have on Thursdays. We also got to eat two delicious meals in my co-op and my dad even hopped on a crew when I had to go to my night class.
On Friday, I had some obligations related to my TA job in the psych department, so we couldn’t spend the whole day together, but we still managed to get a nice lunch out and get some good walking in, and stopped in at Blue Rooster, a lovely bakery and one of my favorite spots in town. On Friday night, we went to Student Dance Showcase, which was AMAZING as usual, and my dad was very impressed! After years and years of watching me perform in ballet productions, he knows what skilled movement looks like, but this show was a great departure from the classical ballet I grew up doing. At this point in my Oberlin career, I’ve sort of gotten used to the amazing amount of talent concentrated in this small space, but it was refreshing to be with someone who was experiencing it all for the first time, and the sense of wonder and amazement I saw in my dad was an endearing reminder of how I felt as a new Oberlin student.
Saturday was the highlight of my dad’s visit for a lot of reasons. We started off our day at Black River Café and ate WAY too much breakfast food, and then shopped around at a few galleries in town, briefly looking in on the kittens at Ginkgo’s, who were feeling particularly frisky that morning, but we didn’t stay long since we are both QUITE allergic. We then made our way to the arboretum and walked around the Oberlin cemetery, which maybe seems morbid, but is actually a lovely way to think about the history of this community, and we had a good time looking at all the headstones. After that, we headed to Kim’s, which is the small Korean grocery and eatery in town, and then back to my room in Tank just to hang out. That evening we had a nice dinner out with my future housemates (who I’ve all known since orientation!) and my friend Piper’s parents, who also happened to be in town that weekend! It was a really sweet gathering, and I think all the real adults were really amused by the antics and inside jokes the four of us have formed over the years. The fun really began when we headed to Finney Chapel for a massive music event called Kaleidosonic, which was a four-hour concert with over 500 musicians from the college and Oberlin community put on to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the TIMARA (Technology, Music, and Related Arts) department in the conservatory. I had no idea what to expect, but my dad and I were immediately blown away by the opening, which featured the Oberlin Brass Ensemble and the Taiko drumming group on campus. The music was non-stop, shifting seamlessly from one unexpected combination to another. My favorite moments were the opening, the children’s choir who sang acapella (they were TINY GENIUSES), a bagpiper followed by the Oberlin High School marching band decked out in string lights, and the OSteel (Steel pan band) and Gamelan group collaboration. Even though the concert went until midnight, we left about two hours in and made our way to the Cat in the Cream for our second musical event of the night. While enjoying a chocolate-chip Cat cookie, we listened to some very talented student openers before the headliners, Foghorn Stringband, came on. Before they started, the band said something along the lines of “Have fun, get rowdy, maybe dance a little later on in the night if you want…” and about 3.2 seconds into their first tune, the Cat floor in front of the stage was packed, filled with Obies forming what may have been the first ever folk concert mosh pit. Everyone was bouncing around and laughing and having such a great time, and I think our enthusiasm was so effusive we both amused and frightened the musicians! It was an amazing night, and after attempting a three-person waltz with two of my friends and two-stepping with my dad, we were beat, so we headed home. It was certainly a memorable night.
Sunday was my dad’s last day in town. We slept in, met for lunch at Black River (for the second day in a row), and checked out the Allen Memorial Art Museum. My dad had been there when I was a prospie, but they have rotating exhibits, so there’s always something new to see. We went on one last walk and then I took him to the airport shuttle and we said goodbye.
Like I did with my mom and sister when they visited, here’s a little written Q&A with my dad about his perceptions of Oberlin and his visit (here’s the companion post I wrote with my mom and the one I wrote with my younger sibling). Anyone who reads this blog gets my unfiltered voice, but I think hearing from parents of current Obies can also provide valuable information about the school and what makes it special. So, without further ado, Herr Doktor Professor William Stanley everyone:
1. What was your favorite part about visiting Oberlin?
That’s really hard to answer, I experienced the visit as one whole thing – meeting more of your friends, observing classes, eating at Tank off of a Tupperware lid, walking around town and campus in a cold wind with a hat and gloves on, hearing the steam banging in the radiators, experiencing two musical performances and a dance showcase, sitting through one of the best seminars I’ve ever seen, and swinging a mop more or less incompetently at the coop. The best part was seeing you in your element, surrounded by folks as quirky and smart as you are. You chose this place, and spending some days here helped confirm my sense that it was a good choice for you. I also really liked that you were critical of things at Oberlin, without losing your love for the place.
2. What surprised you most about Oberlin?
The sheer scope of musical and dance talent we saw over the course of two days. From a student body the size of Oberlin’s, I was surprised at the number of people who could be put together to play gamelan (very creditably!) [as a young man my dad spent some time living and working in Indonesia with Volunteers in Asia]. These are all serious disciplines, and I felt like I was witnessing the kind of talent that could be assembled by a good-sized city. I knew intellectually that it could be like this, but seeing the talent and work on display in short order was pretty stunning.
3. What’s something you wish you could’ve done at Oberlin that we didn’t get to do?
We got to do the things that I most wanted to do. I kind of wished I had gotten to observe you in your teaching assistant role; that would have been interesting. But it would have been kind of intrusive, so never mind! I’m sorry I didn’t get to see a Girls in Motion performance; I really like the fact that you did had that connection to the wider community.
4. What do you feel have been the most valuable things I’ve gotten out of my Oberlin
education thus far? What do you wish I had learned or experienced that I haven’t yet?
As a social scientist, I am impressed with your easy command of both psychological theory and research methods, which compares favorably to what I have seen in very talented graduate students. That’s a good place to be after only 2.5 years at college (!!) and it speaks to the quality of education you’re getting. I especially liked the fact that while you are learning these skills, you are critical of the state of psychology as a field, and that you are thinking hard about where you and your goals fit into the discipline and its toolkit.
On the wish list would be for you to have an opportunity to do some more jointly produced performing arts – dance or music. I know you will be able to do these things in the future in whatever community you settle in, but Oberlin seems like a uniquely fun place to participate in amateur performing arts. I especially liked how enthusiastically the beginner classes were received at the dance showcase.
5. What are your hopes for me as I prepare to go abroad and enter my last year at
I think the spring and summer in Germany will be amazing, for the language immersion but also just for the heightened awareness that comes from living in a very different society. I think you are well prepared for it, and that it will still involve lots of surprises, challenges, and revelations. For your last year at Oberlin, I hope you get to explore classes and extracurricular activities that are particularly interesting to you. By front-loading so many requirements, I think you’ve earned an opportunity to diversify your experience and take advantage of both the range of specialized courses and the unusual concentration of talent and interest in the performing arts at Oberlin.
6. If you could offer a piece of advice to future Oberlin students and or parents, what
would you say?
We have talked about what you call “overcommitment culture” at Oberlin, and that one of your classmates called the “maladaptive behavior Olympics.” There are so many compelling things to do at Oberlin that it really is difficult to choose how to spend one’s time. It’s a huge life lesson to have to accept that you really cannot do it all, and to have to forgo things that each seem like unique opportunities. If a new student doesn’t make those hard choices, and tries to do too much, it results in burnout, poor self-care, or doing lots of things half-way. Coming into the school with eyes open and a willingness to make hard choices might be a partial antidote. It’s an inherent challenge of life at Oberlin, but honestly, I’d rather see students have that challenge than be at a place that is boring [and Oberlin is never that!!!].
So, there you have it, folks! This is the last post in a trio of various family perspectives on my life at Oberlin. I hope you enjoyed it, and Dad, thanks for coming and writing so well about your visit :)