I first visited Oberlin in Spring 2012—my junior year of high school. Like Brendan, I came with my dad, who also attended Oberlin in the early '80s. It was the first time he had returned to Oberlin in 30 years. Our visit involved a lot of pointing and exclamations like "That building wasn't there before!" and "This is where I pushed my friend down the stairs in a shopping cart!" We ate at Agave (the Californians were not impressed) and bought merch at the bookstore; good times were had. Because I visited as a junior, and flying to Ohio from California takes planning and $$$, I wasn't able to return to campus before making my decision to live here for four years, after I was admitted. Luckily, I was convinced by my one campus tour and my father's constant reminiscing that Oberlin was the place for me. As nice as the campus tour was, there are so many places I could have experienced during my visit that I didn't know about! Here are some additional places to check out when you visit Oberlin:
1. The Allen Art Museum
I kind of fell in love with the Allen when I took an Art History survey course during my first semester of my freshman year. It's a small museum, but the collection is impressive, considering Oberlin is a small liberal arts college in rural Ohio. The security guards are super friendly and know a lot about the artwork, and always like to chat with students and visitors. The museum employees are also really knowledgeable. The museum is, in my opinion, one of the most quiet, pristine places on campus to go and clear your head. I've also visited the Allen with many of my classes; Art History (duh), Economics, my first-year seminar, and several history classes. The Art Library, in the upstairs portion of the building attached to the museum (it's hard to describe) is also lovely.
Another totally awesome thing the Allen Art Museum does is Art Rental, which is an opportunity for students to borrow pieces of art from the museum (like legit stuff, guys) for a semester! What other college gives you the opportunity to have an original Matisse or Keith Haring hanging in your dorm room? NO OTHER COLLEGE. I haven't actually participated in Art Rental yet, but after looking at some of the pieces for the purposes of writing this post, I really want to.
If you want to visit the museum, it's on N. Main St. next to Hall Auditorium.
2. Slow Train/The Local
Slow Train and The Local are both coffee shops in downtown Oberlin. They're "sister" stores and are owned by the same folks, but their ambiances and some menu items differ. Slow Train, located on E. College St., is a bigger, more lively café with frequent events like trivia and live music. There are lots of fancy coffee and tea beverages you can get, and delicious pastries and snacks to eat. It's a popular place to study, especially on weekends.
The Local (where I go several times a week) is a little more mellow and is very cozy. It's tucked in the basement of a building on S. Main, underneath a bike shop. It has a lot of the same menu items as its sister store, but one thing The Local offers that Slow Train does not is DELICIOUS BAGELS. They're so, so good, you guys! My go-to is a toasted "everything" bagel with cream cheese or pesto. I promise that if you go to The Local and get coffee and a bagel, then consume them as you walk through Tappan Square, you will feel like a Real Oberlin Student™.
If you're visiting, Slow Train and The Local are ideal places to lurk and watch college students in their natural habitat. Sit at a table in the corner and observe over-caffeinated youths type on their laptops at the speed of light, or watch YouTube videos with their headphones on. When I was visiting colleges, I liked being able to eavesdrop on conversations and try to get a feel for what a school's students were actually like; one of these coffee shops is an ideal place to do so.
3. The Arb
The Arb is an area close to campus where there are two reservoirs surrounded by a small network of walking trails and various meadows. It's basically the closest "nature-y" place to go within walking distance of campus. The Arb's atmosphere changes beautifully with the seasons (shown here during the fall). During the summer, it's green and overgrown, and a great place to go for a late-night walk. In the fall, the colors of the leaves are gorgeous, and during the winter, it looks like what I imaging the magical land from The Nutcracker looks like. Also, there is nothing like going to the Arb in April and seeing that spring has finally arrived in Oberlin. A good way to get to the Arb is to walk west down Lorain St. or College St., and then turn left on Cedar St. until you reach a stone tower and a dilapidated red building, where Cedar St. ends at Morgan St. Just walk past the red building and you're there.
I promise that this is less sketchy than it sounds.
WOBC is Oberlin's radio station. The station is located on the fourth floor of Wilder Hall. This is a photo of me on the air when my friend and I had a show last spring. If you're interested in music, radio, or just seeing a cool part of Oberlin, visiting the station is an awesome idea! Since you need a student ID to swipe into the station, see if you can have a friend/student host/random friendly person in Wilder let you in. There will probably be some folks in there, since WOBC runs 24-hour programming, but chances are they'll be nice and answer your questions. WOBC has a really extensive selection of records and CDs that are packed wall-to-wall throughout the station, and some couches/random artifacts scattered about. If you hear what you think may be the wails of a dying banshee, don't worry—it's probably just the music they're playing.
5. A Co-op
Oberlin is home to several housing and dining co-ops. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, co-ops are intentional communities where students live and/or eat. Students work 4-5 hours per week for the co-op or OSCA at large in exchange for at-cost housing and dining fees. Many Obies also value the tight-knit communities that form around co-ops and the delicious tasties that are created there.
Back in the Jurassic Period when I visited Oberlin, there weren't OSCA (Oberlin Student Cooperative Association) tours available. Apparently, there are now tours of OSCA for prospective students. If you don't go on one of those, you should visit a co-op anyway! There are a bunch to choose from: Harkness, Tank, Keep, Pyle, Old B, Fairkid, Brown Bag Co-op, Third World Co-op (a safe space for students of color and low-income students), and Kosher Halal Co-op (not a part of OSCA, but still a very cool place.) Co-op life is not something most colleges offer, so a co-op tour or visit is not to be missed!
I love taking college tours. The only person I know who loves taking college tours more than I do is my dad. Last year when my parents were visiting Florida with my grandparents, my dad convinced my mom to go on a tour of New College of Florida, even though his only child is a college student (at Oberlin. I'm his only child. I bet you wouldn't have guessed that).
My dad and I were in luck when we visited Oberlin during my junior year of high school. Since Oberlin has both a tour of the college and a tour of the conservatory, we managed to go on two tours in one day - truly a dream come true. However, while we got to see a great variety of places on our tours, there are many more great places I have discovered since coming to Oberlin that I had no idea existed before I was a student here. Luckily, I've heard that the tour of Oberlin (College) has added a dorm room to its repertoire (not seeing a dorm room was the only real disappointment to my initial visit to Oberlin).
Here are some other places you should check out if you visit Oberlin and have some extra time!
1. 4th Floor Mudd
The 4th floor of Mudd is many things to me. My true home. A sacred space. The promised land.
Want to do hardcore homework? This is your place. There is complete silence. Once I dropped my pencil and someone glared at me. That's my kind of place. Whenever I get in a rut and feel like I haven't been working efficiently, there's an easy fix: go to 4th floor Mudd. I've written pages upon pages of essays, read pages upon pages of articles, written hundreds upon hundreds of Chinese words over and over (to build muscle memory...that's a Chinese learning tip for all you readers out there), and watched countless YouTube videos in this blessed place (just kidding - I would never degrade this perfect place to work by wasting time...obviously).
One thing that I particularly like about Mudd outside of the complete silence that I can find on the top floor is the color scheme. Although you might not expect it from looking at the dungeon-like grey block outside of Mudd, there are so many colors everywhere! Bright greens, oranges, and yellows abound, and there really aren't many dull spots at all. I find it a lot easier to do work and generally stay awake in this type of environment.
In addition to the great variety of color, Mudd also has a great variety of places to work. On the 4th floor, you can sit at a traditional rectangular table with four chairs (usually my preference), or branch out into some more exciting options, like the plush chairs (bright green), a study carrel, or the ever-famous womb chairs (orange on the 4th floor, but there are yellow ones elsewhere in the building). Personally, I like having a table to work on, but I will admit that there's nowhere better than a womb chair to watch T.V.
The 4th floor also has a few other distinctive features. It features the Toni Morrison Society, which got me really excited when I first found out about it. Little did I know that I would actually get to hear Toni Morrison give a speech during my first semester at Oberlin! The 4th floor is also home to Special Collections, which has not only a variety of artifacts, but also honors projects by Oberlin alumni. Special Collections is a common field trip location. My first semester at Oberlin, my Greek class went to Special Collections to look at some original Greek texts, which was an experience I never expected to have in college.
I just realized that when I first made this blog, I put "4th floor Mudd" in my interests. I guess that's not a lie. I REALLY love this place (I say this because I am, of course, working on this blog post on the 4th floor of Mudd), and you should definitely check it out if you get the opportunity!
2. Organ Practice Rooms
Here's an embarrassing secret: the way I first found out about Oberlin was through its double degree program. That's right - I wanted to pursue a degree in Organ Performance. Luckily, I had snapped out of that daydream by the time I was applying to colleges, so I never had the opportunity to embarrass myself by auditioning for the school and realizing that there are people here who play organ at a level I could never even imagine.
However, I did get the opportunity to play organ here. My first semester of college, I took secondary organ lessons, during which I got to learn from an older Organ major. While the lessons were good, what really impressed me were the practice rooms. There are quite a few organ practice rooms in the conservatory, which means that there are quite a few organs. I think the sight of a single organ is impressive, so the fact that there are so many in such a small area kind of blows my mind. You need a key to access the organ practice rooms (since they don't want people going in and destroying such valuable instruments), but you can get a key easily if you take secondary lessons.
If you like organs but aren't interested in playing, there are a lot of opportunities to listen to organ music on campus. My (and my dad's) personal favorite is Organ Pump. Actually, now that I think about it, I think that Organ Pump could serve as my answer to the infamous question every college student gets asked by people interested in the school (why did you choose Oberlin?). The truth is, the idea of going to a school where students would willingly go listen to live organ music at midnight on a Friday in the dead of winter was just too appealing to me. I've been to a lot of Organ Pumps since arriving at Oberlin, and I haven't been disappointed yet.
When I was a senior in high school I came to an accepted students day at Oberlin. For a variety of reasons, it wasn't the best day of my life. However, at the end of the day I went to see The Laramie Project in Hall Auditorium. The play was amazing, and it pretty much single-handedly made me decide for sure that I was going to come to Oberlin, despite the various mishaps I had had throughout the day. This pretty much set the trend for all performances I have seen at Hall since then.
Hall is the site of one of my favorite things at Oberlin - the opera. I personally love operas in general, but I think seeing an opera at Oberlin is one of the best things you can do even if you aren't an opera fan. Voice majors, who are all extremely talented, put on the opera and it only costs $8! It's nice to see operas put on by extremely talented people for about 1/20th of the price you would have to pay if you wanted to see an opera at the Met. It's even better when you know people in the show!
I've never seen a show in Hall that I did not enjoy, and I don't think I ever will! I do know that I will be buying a ticket to as many events there as I can until I graduate.
When Frances and I had just met, back in September of 2013, I decided, for whatever reason, that a good way to catalog my college experience would be to write down entertaining quotes. Most of these quotes are no longer entertaining since I have completely forgotten any context they may have once had. However, I still have the list, and I thought I would share a quote:
"If we sit down we'll be here for three hours!" - Frances Casey
While this quote was referring to the couches in the Barrows lobby (we were THAT group of first-years...), Frances later told me that her dad's group of friends acted the same way in Decafe when he went to Oberlin. (Note: Frances has since informed me that this is not technically true. When Mr. Casey went to Oberlin, Decafe was not Decafe, but rather just a snack bar without the difficult to pronounce name. Daycaf? Daycafé? Who knows? I'm not sure if it had smoothies then or if he would have drunk them. After all, sugar bites.) While I can't exactly imagine spending every waking hour in Decafe the way I did with the Barrows lobby for my first semester of college, I certainly enjoy being in Decafe.
One word can justify my positive feelings about Decafe: smoothies. The Decafe smoothies are honestly the best smoothies I have ever had. You get to pick the ingredients that go in your smoothies and I always pick some combination of ingredients that makes my smoothie look like some sort of green/brown sludge (i.e. peaches, spinach, celery, strawberries, and soy milk), but they somehow taste amazing without fail. Whenever I have a bad day, a Decafe smoothie is sure to cheer me up.
Besides smoothies, there are plenty of other great things about Decafe. They have a ton of food options, and you can pay with flex points, Obie dollars, or cold, hard cash. There are also a lot of places to sit, which makes it a good place to hang out with friends.
5. Mt. Oberlin
Oberlin (and Ohio in general) is infamous for its lack of mountains, hills, or really any kind of topography at all. However, anyone who says there are no hills is forgetting the all-important Mt. Oberlin. I like to ignore that Mt. Oberlin is manmade and pretend that it is a gift from a higher being to the mountain-lovers among us.
When my friend's little sister came to visit Oberlin last year, we all went to Mt. Oberlin and enjoyed the wonderful view from atop the obviously enormous and frighteningly tall mountain. We also rolled down it. Although I'm not usually one for rolling down hills, I feel that rolling down Mt. Oberlin is something that everyone should do before they graduate. Bringing yourself back to how you felt at age 8 is pretty much what college is about anyway. Just watch out for broken plates.
Mt. Oberlin is located behind the gym, which means that it is a) somewhat secluded due to the student body's general apathy towards everything sports-related, and b) a great place to watch sporting events if, for some reason, you lack this apathy.
While it may seem that Mt. Oberlin is just a hill (since it is), I still think that it is an important place to visit. If you're ever feeling lonely and you just want a hill to keep you company, you can always know that it is there. Watching over you. Mt. Oberlin - the true keeper of peace.
If you still aren't convinced that Mt. Oberlin is a significant location then here's a fact for you: Mt. Oberlin is the highest point of elevation in Lorain County! That's right - not just Oberlin College, not just the town of Oberlin, but ALL OF LORAIN COUNTY! How impressive.
I think I had better end this blog post with a bonus quote from the awful quote list I dug up:
"The best feeling in the world is when you see an Oberlin blogger in the flesh." - Frances Casey
I guess she must like looking in the mirror now.
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February 1, 2022