Oberlin Blogs

Soundtrack of a New Student

December 21, 2023

Julia Xu '27

Foreword: It's been a little over an hour of waiting for my layover to begin boarding (I'm flying home for winter break) and as I was opening up a new Google Doc, fingers ready to bless my readers with my incredible wit and impressive vocabulary, I stumbled upon old drafts of blog entries from my first weeks at Oberlin and—blame it on the holiday spirit—couldn't help but feel nostalgic. I concede that 2 months and 26 days is maybe a smidge on the late side to be making this post, but I figure any later would really be pushing it and hey, maybe looping back to the beginning can be a symbolic way to end my first fall term at Oberlin!

(Special thanks to LaGuardia's free WiFi for sponsoring this post.)

I recently hit the milestone of having created 300 playlists on Spotify, which seems like a lot to other people but perfectly reasonable to me. I might not be a Conservatory student, but ever since I created my Spotify account mid-fall in my freshman year of high school, music has been the axis which my life revolves around and the North my compass always leads me back to. 

As a first-year at Oberlin, time seems to move differently. It feels like I’ve been here forever, but each day passes by so quickly that my alarm clock or calendar don’t seem to be accurate anymore. So recently, I’ve found myself measuring time in songs.

Track 1: Last Day On Earth by beabadoobee

“You made it,” is the first lyric of the song, and that pretty much encompasses how I feel about Oberlin. I’m 564 miles from home, I’ve been spending a meal swipe on a smoothie every day, and my laundry machine at home is very different from the ones in my dorm, and all of this makes me feel very grown-up and very inexperienced at the same time. I haven’t turned 18 yet, which makes me feel like a child when talking to my nearly 20-year-old friend, but I’m about to read the first 200 pages of Plato’s The Republic, which makes me feel like an established academic with graying hair doing some light reading in a leather armchair.

Last Day On Earth is like saying “screw it” and doing whatever you want, because doomsday is imminent and we only have so much time—so I’ve been singing awful karaoke and eating plates of sweet potato fries for lunch with no guilt, because I plan on making the most of my time here.

Track 2: Read Your Mind by Sabrina Carpenter

Compared to my hometown, Oberlin’s walkability makes the campus seem like a small city. I’m lucky to have all my classes in the same building which, depending on the weather and what floor my class is on, is about a 6-8 minute walk. I haven’t been late to a class since the semester started (knock on wood) and I credit that to Sabrina Carpenter’s 120 bpm pop genius of a song. It’s the perfect tempo for speed walking between buildings, whether I’m meeting a friend at the library or picking up my food order, with a little breeze in my hair on a beautiful mid-60s and sunny day.

I’ve been “trying to live in reality,” taking the unpredictable Ohio weather day-by-day and enjoying the present, but it’s hard not to be excited about the future. I’ve tried many new things at Oberlin, like blue cheese (which I hate), but there are so many things I haven’t experienced, like playing with the kittens at Ginko Art Gallery or going stargazing at the observatory. 

Track 3: Pair of You by FIG

My first Oberlin concert was at The Cat in the Cream, where I devoured two of their famous giant oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and a container of raspberries that my friend won for being able to name every Ninja Turtle in a round of trivia hosted by the performing artist, FIG. Pair of You is a jazzy, cheeky song that I knew all the words to, and I thought the message especially fitting for Oberlin’s culture.

Having grown up in small towns all my life, getting used to the casual unabashed individuality of Oberlin students was one of the many adjustments that I had to make to college life. In absorbing this new environment, I’ve been conscious to not let my surroundings “turn me into half of a pair” of it. Instead of feeling the need to assimilate, it’s almost like Oberlin has adapted to make room for me, like a fluid entity capable of evolution and acceptance.

Track 4: Never Going Back Again by Fleetwood Mac

One thing I love and hate about college is getting to decide how to spend my free time. My schedule works out so that, for the most part, I’m completely done with classes before 11AM (with the exception of my 7PM on Mondays and Wednesdays). That’s meant quite a few hours journaling under the shade of a tree, making friends with people who ask if they can sit with me (I have a talent for finding the best outdoor sitting-spots), and waving away the bees that try to come for my spicy crunchy California roll from Umami.

Fleetwood Mac is perfect for days where I’m reminiscing about home, waiting for a text back from my high school friends in different time zones, and feeling a bit lost in a sea of 3,000 other students. Lindsey Buckingham had a good point when he said, “You don’t know what it means to win.” I’ve only just started my college career, there are infinite opportunities ahead of me, and there’s something so liberating about accepting that you can’t change the past.


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