I happen to have a doppelgänger. Her name is Rosa, she is 17, and we share 50% of our DNA, and last weekend, she came to Oberlin. That’s right, my (taller) younger sister visited me to see my big girl college life. I considered an alternate title for this blog post which was “How many Oberlin things can you do in four days,” and the answer is: Quite a lot! I’ll do a day-by-day walkthrough of her visit, followed by a little Q&A section with her.
If there are prospective students reading these blogs who haven’t had a chance to visit Oberlin yet, or who won’t get a chance, this might be a useful post for you in that you can get a current high schooler’s perspective on Oberlin. As a
seasoned experienced third-year, my views of Oberlin are very different from what they were two years ago, and I think as a high school student I might have appreciated another high schooler’s views on Oberlin.
But before we get into the thick of our blog-based interview, here is a walk-through on how to do as many Oberlin things as possible in one long weekend.
On Thursday, Rosa got in around 4 pm and waited for me in Severance Hall (aka where I live as a psych major) unti l got out of my seminar on self-destructive behaviors. Once I escaped from my third class of the day, we went back to Tank (co-op where I live) and dropped off her stuff. Since she’d been sitting on planes all day, we figured a nice walk would do us some good, so we set off for a mini-campus tour led by yours truly.
We stopped by Mudd, the main library, and took some obligatory womb chair pictures, and managed to not get kicked out despite silent giggling fits. On the way out, Rosa and I got asked to sign a petition boycotting the Sabra hummus company, which is tied to human rights violations in Palestine. We did so gladly, because the Boycott Sabra movement is getting big on Oberlin’s campus, and signing a petition is one of the most Oberlin things a student here can do.
After showing her more of campus and stopping by the “pond” at the AJLC environmental science building (more like a marshy mud puddle with some reeds) to see two of my friends that Rosa has already met, we walked back to Tank for her first co-op meal, a very traditional OSCA meal of various legumes, rice, roasted veggies, and some kale salad. She thoroughly enjoyed it.
After dinner we went to the ice cream shop here, Cowhaus Creamery, and filled ourselves with sweet, delicious dairy that our bodies are not capable of digesting unaided (remember that 50 percent shared DNA?). It had been a long day for both of us, so we went back to Tank, watched part of Spider Man: Into the Spiderverse (surprisingly underrated) and went to sleep!
On Friday morning, I had to get up early for some TA job requirements in the psych department. We stopped at the Local (a coffee shop in Oberlin) first to get Rosa a bagel and an Albino Squirrel, which is a fun coffee drink the Local serves. All sugared up and caffeinated, I toted her back to Severance again where I had to work, and she settled in to do some math and physics homework like the diligent student she is.
Once I was done working, we walked around downtown Oberlin a bit, making a stop at the bookstore to get Rosa some Oberlin swag, and popped briefly into Gingko’s, the art store/gallery space/kitten shelter on Main Street. All the kittens had humans with them, but they were cute nonetheless. We had a nice lunch out at the Corner Joint and finished watching our movie.
Later that afternoon, we went to TGIF, an Oberlin tradition, where, on nice Friday afternoons, students fill the grassy quad near the library and Student Union building and listen to music and get drinks (for those who are of age, of course). Rosa got her face painted, and we made our way to Harkness (another co-op) for pizza night!
Pizza night is a treasured OSCA tradition, and I was glad to show it to my sister. She got to meet some more of my friends, and after thoroughly digesting our pizza and listening to a hilarious anecdote about a fake celebrity astronaut’s Facebook page, we walked to the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse to see the first performance of the year held by OSLAM, the Oberlin slam poetry team. We stayed at that for a while, and then headed back to Tank to make a vegan chocolate cake to celebrate our birthdays (mine is the 15th of October, and Rosa’s is the 8th). We shared it with friends, because sharing a vegan chocolate cake at 10 pm is truly the essence of the cooperative spirit. We went to bed, full of good food and all tuckered out from our adventures.
On Saturday, we slept in, and went to Black River Café for breakfast, where Rosa got two absolutely massive cranberry-orange pancakes, on which she made some seriously impressive inroads. After our giant breakfast, we decided to walk it off, so we went to the arboretum, colloquially referred to as the Arb, and enjoyed the beautiful autumnal weather.
After some tree-climbing shenanigans, we meandered our way back to Tank for a lovely Saturday lunch. After digesting yet another delicious meal (we co-opers are well fed), we went on a vintage-and-thrift-store adventure to some of the shops downtown, where Rosa ended up with some good finds and also tried on the world’s best (worst?) suit. After our adventures, we were seriously tired, so we went back to Tank and lounged in my room for a few hours before dinner, which was a breakfast-for-dinner special meal, complete with a leek-ricotta frittata, tofu scramble, French toast (with homemade brioche!), sweet potato hashbrowns, and more!
We were joined by our friend Alia, from back home in Albuquerque, who now also attends Oberlin, which was a lovely reunion. After wolfing down our plates, we speed-walked to the Apollo, Oberlin’s movie theatre, to see the Downton Abbey full-length movie, which was completely frivolous and full of manufactured drama. We enjoyed every second of it. It had been another very full day, so we went to bed early.
Sunday was Rosa’s last day in Oberlin. We woke up early, and she helped me out on a breakfast crew I was subbing for someone. After that, we went on a nice walk to Blue Rooster, my favorite bakery in town, and enjoyed the continuation of the glorious autumnal weather we had been experiencing all weekend. We went back to Tank for yet another delicious meal, this one featuring coffee cake and scrambled eggs, and were joined by my friends Alex and Piper, both of whom had met Rosa before this visit.
After lunch we went to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, checking one more Oberlin thing off our list, and Rosa even recognized some of the work that she’d learned about in her sculpture class this semester! We cuddled a bit before setting off in a friend’s borrowed car, I dropped her off at the airport, and we concluded a truly amazing visit.
Now, for the interview portion of this post! I’ve asked Rosa a few questions here, and here are her responses.
1. What were your first impressions of Oberlin? Did anything surprise you?
Right off the bat I thought the campus was really beautiful. The leaves were just starting to turn red on some of the trees and we were lucky to have wonderful weather while I was there. I liked the eclectic architecture of the campus; each building was like a sliver of the college's history. The people were really friendly and I saw a lot of professors walking around and talking to students, which was really cool. The students definitely had a very Oberlin look: something along the lines of hiking granola fashion icons? The town was even nicer than I expected. Inside the buildings and dorms I thought it was really cool that nearly all the bathrooms were gender neutral, and the bathrooms in Tank [the co-op where I live] had poetry on the inside of the stalls.
2. What was your favorite thing we did during your visit?
We did a lot of really fun things, like going vintage shopping and eating in bakeries, but I'm going to narrow it down to two. The first is our walks around town, especially to the arb. The foliage and the lakes were absolutely stunning. I also liked exploring outside the college-centered downtown area and into the more residential parts of Oberlin. We also took a lovely walk that led us to a graveyard, and I enjoyed looking at the historic gravestones.
The second favorite thing was the poetry slam. The poets from the team [check out the OSLAM team!] were truly incredible in both their use of language and their performance. I also liked the open-mic performers, and how supportive the crowd was of them. The poetry slam was the most concentrated group of Oberlin students I had seen on the trip. Many people in the crowd had really fluid and non-traditional gender-expression, which I thought was really cool and freeing. It felt like you could be and dress any way in the world and still have a place where you were accepted and celebrated.
3. Did your view of Oberlin change at all over the few days you were here?
On my visit, I did a lot of the quintessentially Oberlin things like eating in co-ops, going to the free store, signing a petition, and baking a vegan chocolate cake in an industrial kitchen, but as the days went by, my opinion of what Oberlin was definitely broadened. Contrary to popular opinion, Oberlin is not just a place where a bunch of plaid-wearing social activists hang out together and eat beans out of muffin tins. It really felt like a caring community where everyone takes what they need and gives away what they don’t.
I got the impression that Oberlin students don’t buy a lot. Many students remarked on how they had found their favorite clothing out of a cardboard free box in their co-op or dorm. I thought it was great to see a group of people not overly invested in expensive or material things, but rather getting by contentedly on what was already there. This was especially demonstrated in the co-op system. I ate in two co-ops on my stay, Tank and Harkness. That showed me different flavors (pun intended) of what a co-op can be, but also demonstrated the common thread of generosity and openness.
At Harkness pizza night, for example, plenty of people from other living situations all came in for the meal. Nobody had to pay or anything. After eating three meals in Tank, I worked a crew shift, which is the co-op policy. It felt good to give back a little for all the amazing food I was given. I know that the OSCA system has only survived as long as it has because the people that eat and live in the co-ops step up to work in turns to keep it all running. Overall, I thought it was a wonderful way to live.
4. Would you come to Oberlin? Why or why not? Be honest!
My visit to Oberlin showed me what living on a college campus is like, and gave me an idea of things I would like to have in a college, like a co-op system. That being said, I don’t think Oberlin is a big enough place for me to spend four years in. I loved the feel of the community, though, and really enjoyed seeing you in your Ohio home, completely in your element. I think you have really blossomed into a much more confident person since you went to college, and after visiting Oberlin I think I can see why. [thanks, Rosa :')].
So, there you have it, a comprehensive view of my sister’s visit to Oberlin! I found her comments really illuminating. Many of the things that stood out to her were the very same things that stood out to me as an incoming student, and things that I continue to appreciate as I pass the halfway point of my Oberlin career. The community, co-op system, and goofy and eclectic student body are reasons that I came and stay at the place I am lucky enough to attend.
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June 12, 2021