Oberlin is not the fantasy world that it was to me when I was an optimistic young freshman constantly spamming the Oberlin Blogs with every positive interaction I had on campus. At times, I have gotten very tired of living in such a small town and tired of many other things as well. Is Oberlin perfect? No. Is any college perfect? No. Was Oberlin right for me? Yes, a million times.
When I was a freshman, Oberlin was a novelty. However, at some point it just became the backdrop in my way of life. I don’t often think about how much of my personality and my experience has actually been shaped by being in this single place. When I reflect upon my decision to attend this school, I realize: I would not be the same anywhere else. And I’m not sure I would want to be anyone else.
The most impactful gift that I’ve received from this school is the ability to explore so many different subjects. I came into the school very focused on the piano; I believed I was going to be a pianist for the rest of my life. I still love the piano, and I do want to make it a part of my life. But I’ve also been considering other career avenues lately as well. Had I not come to Oberlin, I would have never discovered the organ: an instrument that has brought me tons of joy. I also would have never engaged in a business start-up program.
People assume that a liberal arts or “well-rounded” education causes one to spread themselves too thin. It’s true that one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in college is figure out how to find balance in my life. However, one of the most fulfilling things I’ve gotten to do is explore and find that balance for myself. I believe that Oberlin Conservatory is a truly unique place for musicians. Had I majored in piano at another music conservatory, I feel like I would be walking down a paved path to my career. Oberlin has taught me that I can make my own path in this world and that I’m not stuck to any prescribed path.
The entrepreneurship skills I learned in LaunchU, the skills I’ve learned at the organ, the things I’ve studied in my music classes, my psychology classes, and my French classes, choir, and more: these are all things that 1. Inform what I do at the piano, 2. Put my music in context, and 3. Open up other doors for me to consider if there’s something else I want to do that I’ve never experienced before.
You only know so much when you’re 18 coming out of high school. Sometimes we have a clear idea of where we want to be in 10 years, and oftentimes that changes. I believe that Oberlin Conservatory has really given me the opportunity to focus on what I want to focus on, grow as a pianist, and yet still explore anything else that I’ve wanted. We all change to some extent, and here, I feel that I’ve been given the space to do exactly that. I don’t know a lot of schools where you can so easily take secondary lessons in another instrument, take ANY classes that you want in the college to fulfill conservatory liberal arts requirements, and work so closely with your professors.
I am a strong believer that musicians have to make their own opportunities in today’s society. The master’s degree is the new bachelor’s degree in the music world. Jobs are increasingly competitive. I’ve been thinking: how do I make my own job? Now, I will admit that it is difficult to find opportunities outside of Oberlin without a car, but I do believe that Oberlin truly gives musicians the chance to focus on their craft, to engage in their studies and in the relationships they have around them. I know that if I had gone to a city school, my life would be different. Sure, maybe there would be more to do when I’m bored, but I would also be so distracted: sitting in a practice room, hearing the sounds of cars, people, and wondering why I’m inside in the first place. I also wouldn’t have the close friendships that I have here. Many of my friends from larger schools say that students tend to live in their own personal world.
Oberlin is a bubble in many ways, but it’s also a bubble of exploration and growth. The main thing I hear turning people off from this school is location and weather. If you can’t imagine living in such a small town, just remember: it is four years of your life… that’s not a long time in the grand scheme of things! You don’t have to live in a cornfield forever if you don’t want to. And the weather... oh come on!! Buy a warm coat, wear two layers of pants, and you’re fine.
I don’t reflect on my love for Oberlin every second of the day. I get bored often. Sometimes, I get tired and feel ready to move on. But that just means that Oberlin has prepared me for the next stage of my life, which is so fast approaching. “Senioritis” is a widespread phenomenon, and I don’t believe I would feel it any less at any other school. I don’t feel ready for the future, but I know I am. I know I am, because I have gained so many skills here at Oberlin, I have grown into a better and stronger me, I have made friendships that I know will last long after graduation, and I am so excited to graduate this May and apply all the knowledge I've gained here.