Oberlin Blogs

Real Life Begins

August 6, 2010

Alice Ollstein ’10

In the real world, rent doesn't cost under $300 a month. You can't walk to a free concert every night. All of your dearest friends aren't minutes away. I knew all this, but it didn't really sink in until I sallied forth and settled down in a new city: Washington, D.C.

Don't get me wrong. I am having a great, if mildly terrifying, time. I have two internships -- one journalism-related and paid, and one activism-related and unpaid. The former is for National Geographic's weekly radio show about travel and adventure, where my boss, the show's producer, is a proud Obie grad. He's been teaching me a bunch of new skills and new technology and has been letting me try out all the different tasks involved in producing a radio show. National Geographic is also just an exciting place to be. Everyone is friendly and adventurous and has incredible travel stories.

My other internship is with the School of the Americas Watch -- a group that works to protest the U.S.-funded training of Latin American soldiers. It's an issue I became aware of my sophomore year at Oberlin, when I rode down to Georgia with many other students to attend the annual protest at the military base where the training takes place. I learned so much from the other students and other protesters and stayed involved in Latin America human rights issues all through my time at Oberlin. Now, working as the Communications Intern for SOA Watch, I get to put to use a lot of random skills I've acquired elsewhere -- from writing to layout to sound mixing to correspondence and event planning. I've even enlisted some talented fellow Obies to create original artwork for our fliers and newsletter, which will be distributed to activist groups all across the country next month.

I'm also getting a crash course in finding housing in the real world. In Oberlin, you get a house with your dear friends you've known for years, and location only matters so much as everything is mere blocks from everything else. Here, it's a whole other ball game. There's word-of-mouth and Craigslist posts for finding openings, and then you must participate in one of two awkward events:

  • an "open house" where everyone who wants the room sits around with the house's current residents, "hanging out" over a couple beers but secretly trying to out-cool each other.

  • a sort of panel interview, with all of the house's residents asking you questions about your income, personal hygiene, cooking abilities, and other intrusive facts.


If I end up living in a great house in a great neighborhood with great people this will all be worth it, but SHEESH. Luckily I have my older brother here to counsel me with his (usually) sage advice.

In my next post:


The dance scene, the Oberlin mafia, and a real-live-honest-to-god job offer.

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