As I’m about to enter my senior year in the upcoming fall, I’ve had some time to reflect on what my college experience at Oberlin has looked like, and how I envision my final year going. I believe one can’t move forward without a little bit of reflection on the past, and when I think back on my experience as a freshman, sophomore, and junior at Oberlin my college experience is memorialized and categorized in a series of at times bizarre, heartwarming, tender and raucous memories. I’ve written out a few for the sake of my own self-reflection, but also in an effort to offer a window to look into one person’s experience at Oberlin and the way it is remembered thus far.
Cold Chocolate Milk in the Grass:
In my first year I moved into Dascomb, a freshman dorm smack dab in the center of campus. The library was on the left side of the building and between the two a sprawling oasis of grass peppered with benches, students reading, and the occasional construction zone. Maybe I’m being generous with my description, but Wilder Bowl was a large quad that I frequented as a freshman. My roommate (quickly turned best friend) Greer Hobbs had dragged me out of bed to see some sunlight on a Saturday morning. We didn’t have much to do but the day was too nice to waste. It was fall and the leaves had just started turning. Suddenly a craving so severe hit me. I think I may have actually gasped out loud, which probably caused Greer to ask a few questions before I launched into a detailed plan to acquire a large amount of chocolate milk. Thankfully, Wilder Bowl is located in front of a building aptly named Wilder and in the Wilder basement DeCafe, a sort of pseudo supermarket, is stocked with all kinds of snacks. So to DeCafe we went, in search of one item only. When we arrived in front of the fridge, rows of chocolate milk cartons looked back out at us, but there was no regular sizing. For some reason, in this small store of snack foods meant primarily for students, the only quantity of chocolate milk available was an entire gallon. It seemed time to make a hard decision. At the time I doubt the decision felt too difficult. Without another moment to waste I reached into the fridge, grabbed a jug and walked towards the cash register. Back out in Wilder Bowl Greer and I chose an especially green patch of grass to flop down onto. There, under the bright blue Ohio sky under yellowing leaves and the howls and laughs of other students who had similar picnic ideas we opened up our gallon of chocolate milk and proceeded to drink the entire thing straight from the bottle. I can wholeheartedly say I had never been, and will never be, so full of chocolate milk again. And yet, this memory is one I remember fondly. I may have erased the painful moment in which we tried to get up and go back to Dascomb, doubled over and hobbled to avoid feeling the vast quantity of liquid sloshing around in our bodies. Instead, I remember that day as calm, bright, and gleefully simple. I remember not worrying about anything that day, about the extreme gratification of desperately wanting chocolate milk and suddenly having it, and sharing it with Greer, who was equally thrilled to be drinking milk in the grass.
The Work Life Balance:
I’ve worked at Goldberry, the coffee shop located in Azariah’s Cafe, or the front section of Mudd Library for three semesters. Last semester, my schedule was crammed with classes and jobs, but as the semester began my schedule relaxed a little and I developed a routine. I ended up with a shift at Goldberry that I loved dearly. Beyond working during the week, I got to work the closing shift twice a week. Just two hours, from 6:30-8:30, of gentle coffee-making, cleaning up, and washing dishes. When the shift ended, I would sprawl out on the couch in the coffee shop with an iced tea or a coffee. Like clockwork, my friend Post would walk in at 8:30. We’d spend the next thirty minutes catching up, chatting about our weeks and making each other laugh until finally we both knew we had work to do and couldn’t stall any longer. Those extremely consistent catch-up sessions were always exactly what I needed after a couple hours of work. The library closed at midnight last semester, which gave me about three hours to work. By 9pm on a weeknight Mudd Library is relatively quiet and I found a few nooks and crannies that I looked forward to studying in. When the bell would ring and an intercom voice would announce that the library was closing three hours later, I would pack up my things, bundle up in my coat and head towards the bike rack outside the library. On Tuesdays and Thursdays my friend Jo worked the night shift at The Rath, a leg of the dining hall which is always always open late for fries, grilled cheese or chicken. At midnight, we would coincide at the bike rack and perch on our bikes for a long chat. We’d trade stories from work and munch any late-night snacks that were left over from the day. Then, when it became too cold or too late, we would bike off in different directions, shrieking kind words and goodbyes to each other as we went. My biweekly routine ended with the glorious bike ride back to Tank, the off-campus co-op I lived in last semester. Late at night in Oberlin, the town falls silent, so the bike ride back would always be beautifully empty. Tank is a few blocks away from Tappan Square just past the Oberlin Hotel and also happens to be built on one of the only hills you will find in Ohio. Hill is a strong word for the gradual downhill offered by the road, but on a bike, speeding down the street though bitingly cold air the downhill slope becomes a giddy moment of joy. When I arrived back at Tank a bit after midnight, the living room lights always cast a warm yellow glow over the porch, and the building seemed to emanate warmth. Though I got to repeat this routine weekly, it remains a memory that really encapsulates the things I love most about Oberlin: my friends who check up on me, the silly feeling of a very fast bike ride, the warmth of the space I live in and the chance to repeat those things each week.
A Rugby Tempest:
I joined the rugby team during the strange summer semester that happened because of COVID. As a result, not many people were on campus and not many new people joined the team with me. We were a small group who would come together to practice twice a week, and we became pretty close knit in that time. I have this great memory of going out to the rugby pitch in the afternoon. I showed up a little late and the sky was completely gray. We started warm-ups and, as we were finishing up our sprints, the sky started pouring down rain. With nowhere to hide we picked up everything we could and started racing back to the nearest sports building. Under the awning of the building, we all watched the summer storm together. Kronos ran out to prance in the rain, which made us all laugh. It’s such a small but sweet memory of standing together with this team I love and looking out at the rain and the pitch.
Sweet Like Apple Cider:
Once a week, each co-op receives a thrilling delivery of milk, chocolate milk and cold apple cider. All three beverages come from a local farm, arrive in a crate and are always kept in the same telltale packaging. The milk in glass jugs that get washed and returned, like you might see in a movie about the 1970s, and the cider in a plastic gallon and filled to the brim. The deep love for this cider is universally shared. No matter the meal, the moment the cider arrives it is put out on a table with the food, and the cups suddenly disappear from their place above the cutlery. I’ve clinked mugs full of cold cider before devouring curry, shepherd's pie, and at one time a hearty chili. The appreciation for this cider and the rate at which it disappears is at once devastating (because no more cider at midnight when all anyone wants is cider) and beautiful. In an almost unspoken way, the cups are passed, the cider is poured, everyone ends up with at least a sip or two. In that moment the feeling, the taste and the general satisfaction is shared by the entire co-op. There are many moments that feel like a group effort in cooperative housing and dining, but the day when cold cider arrives at the door brings a sense of shared glee that cannot be found anywhere else.
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