I never intended to apply to a school in Ohio. As a Wisconsinite, there seemed to be one way in the Midwest… out. I wanted out of the corn fields, pickup trucks, and flat landscapes. I wanted out of the 100-miles-to-the-nearest-city drives and out of living in the middle of nowhere. When I applied to Oberlin at the pleading of my college counselor, I promised myself I would not live in Ohio.
And then, I never intended to visit a school in Ohio. When my Dad offered to make the college drive with me to visit Oberlin College and a handful of other small schools, I begrudgingly accepted. We'd made it a tradition to find good Indian restaurants on every college trip because my hometown has none nearby. That's all the college road trip had for me: time with my Dad and Indian food.
I never intended to attend Oberlin. We visited on one of those slushy and gray days in February when the weather couldn't choose between winter and spring and decides neither. Oberlin was covered in a blanket of wet snow. The sky was gray. The air was biting. I fell in love with Oberlin against all my wishes and intentions.
It wasn't immediate by any standards. The Hotel at Oberlin had a stunning interior, and the desk staff was kind. I reminded myself it was the same with every other college. And sure, it was pretty cool that the downtown was so close to the college – not to mention the Apollo Theater lit up at night. Fine, Slow Train had great mochas and cozy couches. I could find a nice cafe anywhere.
As I walked around, I lost more and more of myself to this small town in the middle of Ohio. Peters Hall seemed to pierce the clouds, an elegant Hogwarts-like tower. My tour guide informed me that the Creative Writing department was housed inside. We sat down before the fireplace and took in the grand hall. Later, we'd pass King Building and the Conservatory, designed by Minoru Yamasaki (architect of the World Trade Center). We'd look at the koi pond.
I can continue to list every building, park, and person I fell in love with, but it wouldn't be enough. Truth be told, there were so many reasons. When I visited colleges, I ranked them on arbitrary factors: how nice their libraries were, their downtown, and their mascot. If you want to know why I chose Oberlin, you need only look at my rankings. I poured my heart out over Oberlin. They had four libraries, all "awesome and beautiful and stunning." They had "beautiful theatres and awesome coffee shops." Peters Hall gave me "very bookish vibes," and I loved the "huge dorms." Alright, I rated the albino squirrel mascot as a 4 / 10, but I came to love Yeobie the Squirrel.
I'd keep adding to my list of things I loved for days. I loved OCircus, the hundreds of theatre and music performances, the Experimental College, the sports teams, the famous performers like Lizzo and Kendrick Lamar, Winter Term, the activist history, Art Rental, Drag Ball, Solarity, the farmer's market, Ed Helms, the Jewish life, Organ Pump, the environmental orbs, Ginko Art Gallery, co-ops, and adaptive curriculums. I loved my tour guide, who was vegetarian, a dancer, and a triple major. We exchanged numbers after and called to talk about Oberlin.
When asked to sum it up, and as a tour guide now, I get asked this a lot, I try my best to. I almost always fail to convey that sense of wonder and gratitude. But here, I can sum it up in a sentence. At the end of paragraphs of ranting about Oberlin in my ranking document, I only wrote, "I'm pretty sure you can tell why I love this school." And I did. I didn't think it possible, but I fell in love with Oberlin more when I came here.
At the end of the day, you can read my blogs, talk to me, or search my social media profiles. You can tour Oberlin, visit this website, or email a current student. You can do any or all of this.
Maybe you don't want to apply to a school in Ohio. Maybe you don't want to visit or attend here. I know that, at first, I didn't. But if you're looking for a community, if you're looking for a home, if you're looking for a circus, give Oberlin a chance. I am glad I did. It's changed my life.