Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my years at Oberlin and thinking back on what that time has meant to me. There are so many memories, more than I could write about in a lifetime. As my time at Oberlin comes to an end, I’ve been struggling to articulate precisely what I can say that really summarizes my six years here, both as a student and as an admissions counselor. But luckily, I’ve always found that when the going gets tough, Oberlin has a special way of reminding me of why I chose to come here. In my fourth year, when I was struggling to keep up with my work and decided to drop my East Asian Studies major, the members of OCTaiko supported me and let me know I was making the right decision. Again, in 2020 when the world turned upside down and the school closed due to the pandemic, students rallied together to create a school-wide spreadsheet to share resources, supplies, and support.
Last weekend I participated in the Pride 5K with my coworker and fellow alum Sydney Garvis. I’m not exactly what you might call an athlete so I spent most of the race dead last, or very nearly. While some might see this as discouraging, it never felt that way to me. In true Oberlin fashion, everyone supported each other. Any time the racers would pass each other, they would shout out cheers of encouragement. As we became more spread out, these cheers became less frequent until the very end. With less than half a mile left, I passed someone who had already completed the race and was on their way back home. As I walked across the street, they yelled out “Good job! You’re almost there!” Completely exhausted, I could barely reply but I broke out into a big smile and kept going.
There were many times throughout the race where I felt like giving up. It was hot, humid, and I did not drink enough water beforehand, and going home would have been so easy. But I wanted to, as my dad would say, finish strong. I wanted to cross that finish line and see Sydney. I didn’t want to let down everyone else who ran or walked that day, and most of all I didn’t want to let down myself. That day I felt the power of the Oberlin community. It isn’t flashy or extravagant, but it’s there and it keeps you going.
As I contemplate leaving Oberlin, it’s hard to identify everything that I feel. But this last weekend made me realize that a lot of what I feel is sadness. I’m sad to leave a place where every corner and every street has a memory. Most of all I’m sad to leave a community that I love and that I know loves me. I’m going to miss the support I always felt, from my friends, my professors, and my coworkers. It’s scary to go out into the world, not being surrounded by Obies who are always there to cheer you on and give you the push you need to really grow. But at the same time, I know that if my time here has taught me anything, it’s that a community is not defined by its location, but rather by the people who make it up. I’ve realized that for most of my life, I’ve found my way to Obies. Whether they were the parent of a friend or an artist I admired, the world has found a way to bring me back to Oberlin and the community I always needed. I know it always will.