Oberlin Blogs

On the size of the campus

May 29, 2010

Zoe McLaughlin ’11

One of the odd things I've noticed about Oberlin is that I tend to see the same people no matter where I go on campus. I don't necessarily know their names nor have I necessarily ever spoken to them, but I recognize them. I guess this is what it's like having a relatively small student body.

The thing is, I know there are more people out there than the ones I see around all the time. I just don't know where they are. I don't know why the people in my co-op are the same people I see in orchestra, or leading tours past my lab, or in the bathroom every morning. (Okay, I do know the answer to the last one, but that's a topic for another post.)

I recently talked about this duality with one of my friends. We both know that we see the same people everywhere we go, and we both wonder where the rest of the student body is. I haven't figured out why things work like this. I have a theory that involves perception and the fact that no one pays as much attention as they should, but I'm not sure if it's right. I do, though, know how to meet these students I never see.

At the beginning of this year, I worked during Early Arrival and Orientation in the dining hall. It was a convenient way to get back on campus early, and I met people I'd never seen before in my life, and they were cool. You'd think I might see them around now that I've met them, but that's not really what happened. I do see them occasionally and I could see them more if I made the effort, but, oddly enough, they just faded back into the percentage of campus that I never see.

To bring my year full circle, I also worked during Commencement. This time, I mostly cleaned rooms, though I did spend some time in the dining hall again. Cleaning rooms is about as glamorous as it sounds and, as luck would have it, I was put on a cleaning crew in which I knew no one. Again, here were people I'd never seen before. It was clear, however, that they all knew each other already.

I'm a shy person, so naturally this was rough going at first. I did a lot of vacuuming on my own. However, by our third day of cleaning, I felt like less of an outsider. Perhaps the fact that we all spent the last day playing The Floor Is Lava helped significantly.

These people I did see around campus once our cleaning days were (thankfully) over. That was nice; we said hi and went our separate ways. I predict, though, that I will only see them once or twice next year and then (to get all poetical) only from a distance.

Small (but not so small) campuses. It's odd how they work.

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