Oberlin Blogs

Tucson isn't Oberlin, and other orientation lessons

January 20, 2009

Alice Ollstein ’10

We toured the University of Arizona for the first time today, because one of their expert faculty members will be teaching our Research Methodologies class, and I got a good look at the student body. Not to knock the U of A, but I would never want to go there. I saw a lot of beefy jocks, and girls with bleached hair, copious makeup and underwear-like shorts. And with 50,000 students, it's a bit overwhelming. Everyone on my program is from a small, liberal arts school, so we looked like hicks in the big city as we wandered wide-eyed through U of A's brick buildings. I think I'll miss Oberlin's weirdness while I'm here. I'm already reminiscing with the two other Obies here about the bizarre impromptu performance art, co-op delicacies and general funkiness we know and love. I could be wrong, but my first impression of U of A was impersonal and bland.

Along with visiting the border and having difficult discussions about the drug war, migration and U.S. policy, the five other girls on my program and I have been having a lot of fun. A couple days ago we went to the Arizona Desert Museum, where we became acquainted firsthand with the various cacti, birds of prey and insects that migrants encounter as they trek across the Sonoran desert. Since I'm used to the California coast and Oberlin's snow-blanketed fields, the desert is exotic and incredible to me. I snapped a couple pictures at the outdoor zoo-like museum.

Our last activity of the day was Spanish conversation with Jorge, a Cuban artist at a local café. We talked about everything from our travel experiences to Cuban politics to issues of gender. He was sweet and hilarious and I can't wait to meet with him again.

I'm so happy I chose this particular program. With four incredible staff members for the six of us, I've never had so much personal attention in my life. Oberlin's small size has meant a lot of personal attention (from my professors, advisers, TAs, etc.) but nothing compared to this, where I'm driven from place to place and asked if I need a cup of coffee or a snack. Just so you don't think I'm a spoiled brat, know that this cushy treatment will end tomorrow. From then on out, I'll be getting up at my host family's house in South Tucson and busing to class and work. Lunch is on our own, and I hope my new host mother will let me cook dinner with her. Maybe I can learn some new recipes to bring back to the co-op.

I'll end with an example of a popular local dish: the Sonoran hot dog.

Wrapped in bacon, this little baby comes topped with beans and guacamole. Needless to say, I will continue to admire it from afar and stick to veggie burritos.

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