I remember going to my very first class at Oberlin and doing introductions with my fellow classmates. I knew I was in for a special experience when I found out that I had classmates who came from all over the world.
I figured I would just be hearing hometowns such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other large American cities. However, there were people from other continents in my class. It was mind boggling and wonderful to experience learning with that much diversity in a classroom setting for the first time. I never thought that I would be in a class filled with so many people whose experiences were that much different from my own. It still blows my mind to believe that I have made connections with people from all over the world. Oberlin has a lot to do with that, and I am grateful for the opportunity to get an education along with students from every place imaginable. As I have stated in many of my previous blog posts, the people are the best aspect of Oberlin. There are many other highly valuable traits that make Oberlin a phenomenal institution to go to, but the people you meet are easily the most important part of the Oberlin experience.
Before I went to Oberlin, I never believed I would end up having as many international friends as I do now. I had no idea there were so many people from all over the world who wanted to receive an education from “tiny” Oberlin College, of all places.
As ironic as it may sound, I learned more about the world and its vastness in Oberlin than I have at any other place. I say it’s ironic, because Oberlin is such a small and intimate place. It seems like everyone knows each other here. My high school had more students than Oberlin does. However, Oberlin’s range in diversity is much greater. “Quality over quantity” is the best phrase to describe the place. It attracts the best students from all over the world at a highly selective rate, so it makes sense when I look around the classroom and see geniuses from different continents. Like many Americans, most of my friends were people I grew up with, so many of our perspectives were very similar. I moved from Georgia to Texas in the tenth grade, but both places were still in the American South. The perspectives I learned about both were only slightly different. I didn't know what it was like to experience a multitude of perspectives that were entirely different from my own. However, everything changed for me once I stepped foot on campus. The relationships I have built on throughout the years at Oberlin have taught me just as much as I have learned in any lecture I have ever experienced. Part of what makes Oberlin such a great place to learn is that the learning doesn't stop once you leave the classroom.
Perspectives from all over the world are at my fingertips, thanks to Oberlin College.
When you look at college letters and brochures, you may notice that the students that are featured come from different backgrounds. While this is an important feature, it's important to understand that there is more than what meets the eye. There is a story that comes with every single person that you meet. Therefore, there’s something to learn from each story. Since Oberlin consists of an extremely wide range of people from all over the world, there’s a plethora of perspectives to learn from. When you form relationships with many people from different places, it changes you for the better. Your outlook on everything you’ve ever known could change. When you’re exposed to that much diversity in your environment, that is entirely possible. Sometimes, learning from other people’s experiences allows you to form a different perspective on yourself.
Oberlin provides this diversity, and it has promoted it for a very long time.
It was the first college to admit black students as well as the first college to provide bachelor’s degrees for women. It is rooted in Oberlin’s history to provide diversity for its students. Does that make the school perfect when it comes to social issues? Absolutely not. That’s also what makes Oberlin such a great reflection of the world. There are social issues just like there are on any other campus in America, but there are so many people who are willing to speak out and fight against them. It’s nice to know that I’m surrounded by that everywhere I go. It also ensures that the people who go here are more tolerant of others and their own experiences. All in all, the diversity is part of Oberlin’s strength and identity.