Reflections on Finding One’s Place, 2 ½ Years Later
November 24, 2021
Meredith Warden ’23
As I prepare to study abroad next semester (in Edinburgh, Scotland!!), I've been thinking a lot about how my relationship to Oberlin has changed in the past (almost) two and a half years that I’ve been here. When I first came to Oberlin, I was extremely nervous that it would take a long time for me to feel comfortable here—or, worse, that I would never feel comfortable. Although I was lucky enough to feel like I had ‘found my place’ in my high school by the time I graduated, I was worried that I would never feel this again while in college. These are doubts that I think many people share when making big life changes, so I thought it might be helpful to share a little bit about what I’ve been reflecting on a little over halfway through my time at Oberlin.
First, a quick caveat. This is not to say that it will take everyone 2-ish years to feel comfortable at college—some people probably felt like they had found their place at Oberlin within their first month here, some people might not feel truly comfortable until their senior year, and honestly some people might never like it here (in that case, they would probably transfer). However, I wanted to write this piece because a lot of popular depictions of college show people finding their place/niche almost immediately. This was definitely not the case for me—while I obviously like Oberlin and was glad that I chose to come here, I really don’t think I’ve ‘come into my own’ here until just recently.
From the beginning of my time at Oberlin, I was lucky enough to have certain communities that I still am a part of today. For example, I’ve written before about how my field hockey team is like a family, and this group has been and continues to be such a meaningful part of my life at Oberlin. While I did feel like I ‘fit in’ on the field hockey team from the first day of preseason, I do think that I’ve only recently started to feel fully comfortable on the team, and now that I’m an upperclassman I hope that I can help the first-years and sophomores find their own places on our team.
I’ve also found community in the History department since first coming to Oberlin, even though I technically didn’t declare my major until the end of my first year. It takes a while to form close relationships with professors in (and outside) of your major, but one of the things I truly do love about Oberlin is that the majority of my professors are approachable and want to see me succeed as a student and human being. I know that I would certainly not feel as comfortable and happy in college if I had gone to a school where professors were not as passionate about working with students as many are at Oberlin.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that, even halfway through my time at Oberlin, I’m still able to grow into different communities and find new ways to belong at Oberlin. The biggest change for me this semester has been joining a co-op (moreblogsaboutco-ops), which I kinda did on a whim but was absolutely a fantastic decision. In addition to getting ‘home-cooked’ (‘student-cooked,’ technically) meals, I get to be a part of a new Oberlin community, meet and bond with new and old friends, and feel like I’m contributing something to a larger whole.
The best thing about Oberlin, I think, is that the communities you find and the ‘place(s)’ you make for yourself here are, in many ways, up to you. Some you will seek out deliberately; others, you will fall into; some, you might even quit halfway through. Oberlin is what you make of it, with everything good and bad that entails. Like me, it might take a while for you to feel fully comfortable at college, but I am hopeful in saying that you eventually will find the ‘places’ that define your college experience.