I've learned lots at Oberlin through my academic classes, though they sometimes spur additional outside learning. Sometimes I feel like I've learned far more from these sparks than within a classroom setting. What follows is a short list of things I wish someone had told me, but it wouldn't have mattered because I probably wouldn't have listened anyways. Some of these are personal discoveries, some have been "forced" upon me in the last few months but I don't know how I lived without until now. Everything is learned in due time.
- The value of student input and critique
The student body is the living, breathing, and growing part of the college experience, and you can learn quite a bit from your peers. I have friends read over my blog drafts regularly (though I also have the wonderful external help from Aries and Professor Walker, too, who avidly read the posts for fun and correction purposes).
I also just started frequenting the Writing Center, located in a corner study room off of the Academic Commons of Mudd on the first floor. It is manned by students, most of them enrolled in the class teaching the basics of being a successful teaching assistant and writing tutor. They already know how to write, and are learning how to make a better writer out of you too. (Cue Mulan soundtrack...)
I also got in a long discussion with my friend and writing tutor Sandhya yesterday about the quality of writing in emails. She treats them like post-it notes; I treat my emails as an extension of my professional self, and as a result, like to have someone read over them before sending them off. My friend Jake and I frequently email drafts of important emails to each other to make sure the tone is right and all the necessary information is covered.
Also, if I've learned anything from working for a paper, the more eyes that see something, the higher quality the final product will be.
- Libraries are your new best friend.
Mudd library is a castle of wonderful things, including but not limited to books. Some little-known but super-cool things to check out (pun completely intended) in our library follow:
Special collections. My Oberlin History as American History class visited special collections a week ago, and I was blown away by all the really cool historical artifacts Oberlin has. They not only have books, but pamphlets, journals, scrapbooks, photos, and other tangible artifacts from Oberlin and the college, all throughout both their histories.
The Multimedia Area. Located in the far corner of the first floor of Mudd, there are several computer stations with all the editing and design programs you'd ever want PLUS scanners PLUS a color printer. They're great for short stints of editing to making some cool special posters to advertise an event, but remember to save your work to your external hard drive because all library computer hard drives are wiped daily at 3.30am.
The Writing Center. I mentioned them earlier but I will say it again: visit them early, visit them often.
OhioLINK. A super-duper interlibrary loan program including 88 Ohio colleges and universities and over 12 million books. Can't find it in Oberlin? You can get it, free, usually within a week from another school.
Fourth floor rooftop reading area. During the nice times of the year (read: September, some of October, and a bit of April and May), the outdoor "reading room" is unlocked during sunlight hours. It's pleasant and less distracting than reading in Wilder Bowl, which seems like a great idea until everyone is doing it and you're talking instead of reading.
The Audio/Visual (AV) Department and the movie collection at the circulation desk. Like most libraries, there's an extensive film collection, and not just cause Cinema Studies is the best major ever that everyone should consider. You can check out most movies for two days, just the right amount of time to justify a short break from working, a less-than-exciting Friday evening, or when you're feeling a bit sick and need something to do. If you can't find it here, check out...
The Oberlin Public Library! They have more movies than your body has room for, plus graphic novels and other guilty pleasure books for vacations from daily reading or if you decide to stay in Oberlin for a break or Winter Term.
- Office Hours.
They're not just for asking for help! Professors are amazing. I do say this a lot, but they really really are. I've walked in with practically no idea what a final paper for the class in question should look like and left with an idea, part of a thesis statement and some references. Not only do professors help you in your classes and with your future, you have the opportunity to find a mentor for life.
SAS comes up every year during Academic Ambassador training and I'm constantly far too uninformed about the services they provide. Short list: Tutoring (get them BEFORE you start to struggle. They can teach you how to swim before you sink), classes and workshops about how to be a better student, peer liaisons (kind of like Academic Ambassadors, but one-on-one and stick with you throughout your Oberlin tenure), and time management and schedule planning for success.
Generally Informative and Helpful:
- Sexual Information Center (SIC)
SIC is "dedicated to nonjudgmental and unbiased comprehensive sexuality and sexual health education." I'm using their words cause they're so much stronger than anything I could say about them. They provide information and teach the Sexual Information ExCo and related workshops, as well as selling safer sex and sexual health products at bulk prices, and provide rides to sexual health and family planning clinics. Long story short, they're entirely student-run and incredibly accessible, and I encourage everyone to visit them.
We get hungry. Schedules shift a great deal when you get to college, and your meal times won't adjust with them. Dinner at 6pm doesn't account for the fact that you will probably be up an extra 8 hours past that on some evenings... and this is where the freshman 15 comes in. It is easy to order a pizza or get a huge burrito from Agave when it gets late, but a healthy and tastier option is to keep some of your favorite (and for your health and eventual sleeping, something not too heavy, sugary, or fatty) snack food around. It's not great to eat before sleeping, but a small snack later in the evening will help you concentrate more as you work later. I also highly recommend purchasing a tea kettle with an automatic shutoff, so you can always have tea or coffee late at night, especially when it's cold.
- I want to ride my BICYCLE.
Get a bike, seriously. The bike auction, the bike co-op, the interesting fellow who gives you free bikes with a free bible, are all good place to look. With a bike, you can only hope you will become like Karl. I wish I had that the past few years; I've only learned to love my bicycled existence this year and regret not having one earlier.
RideLine is a student shuttle service that runs from 9pm to 2am and buses students around campus. A godsend when it is cold or you have lots of things and need to go far away from your current location. Give them a call, 775-RIDE, and wait for the big white van to pick you up and take you home. I haven't utilized it yet, but I have a feeling that once it gets colder, I'm going to use it more and more to get to Union Street from the library.
Things That Are Fun and Glorious:
You can't have pets at school but still want to cuddle adorable fluffy things because they take away the stress of college life. Regardless, we need our furry fixes. Head to the Ginko Gallery and peruse their amazing local artists' work as well as art supplies, and then go to the back of the store past some of the resident artists' studio spaces to the KITTIES. AND HUG THEM GENTLY. AND PET THEM. AND SQUEE AT THEM. And then wash your hands and let someone else hold them. The kittens at the gallery are usually found abandoned, then nursed to health and kept in the kitty area gallery for as much positive human contact as possible, and later are adopted.
(Actually, I just needed an excuse to post kittens on my blog... thanks for obliging me :D)
If you prefer dogs, there's the annual Doggie Doo Festival in Tappan Square with dogs of all shapes and sizes.
(And any excuse for cute puppies, too.)
Yes, we have one, and yes, you must visit. The creator of Fallingwater had a brief stint in which he designed affordable yet beautiful family homes in his Usonian style. One of these "starter kit" home was purchased by an Oberlin family, and has passed through a few sets of live-in owners before the college was given the home by art professor Ellen Johnson in her will in 1992. There are tours there the first and third Sundays of the month, on the hour, and if you're a student, they're free!
- Alternative areas to relax.
There are a variety of outside areas around campus, some more secluded than others, that are worth a visit or twelve. I've managed to read in many of these places, and recommend them highly.
The Art Building courtyard. Located behind the Allen Memorial Art Museum and enclosed by one of the art buildings, this courtyard has a fountain in the warmer months and is overrun the night before art rental with students and sleeping bags and tents.
King/Rice courtyard. It's the pretty courtyard that you can see from all the windowed hallways in King, and when the weather is nice, it's a great place to eat lunch. There's a huge wispy tree there, too, that has white flowers tinged with pink in the spring... that more often than not has snow on it when it's flowering. Thus is the weather in Ohio.
Asia House courtyard. The Asia House quad is a popular place for All-OSCA pizza night, since it's huge, grassy, green, and has trees just the right height to climb up and perch in while eating tasty pizza. The quad has people sunbathing and reading through some of the warmer days, and it feels very secluded despite its central campus location.
- Take risks.
This does not necessarily mean trying to rappel off of Peters, though if thrills are what you're looking for, you can check out the Oberlin Outings Club or the Rock Climbing ExCo. What this does mean is take a unexpected class, join an organization that sounds interesting, teach an awesome ExCo, learn a circus skill, or go out into the community. A risk is when you find yourself outside your preferred comfort zone, but that doesn't mean that there are inherent physical dangers.
- Things that are fun are not bad.
Schedule some fun in your work. Attend a lecture (those are still academic!), go out to lunch rather than staying in your co-op or going to CDS (there are multiple restaurants in town with $5 lunch menus; support local businesses with your stomach! Personal favorite: Weia Teia, cause you get complimentary delicious soup, too), visit the Cat in the Cream for an hour long culture break with some improv, a jazz recital, or a visiting musician, accompanied by a Cat cookie.
I feel like I've gotten a lot out of my college experience thus far, but I always know that I've forgotten or missed out on something great, and would not wish that experience on anyone else.