Oberlin Blogs

Unintentional yet Essential

February 16, 2021

Ben Smith ’24

A necessary part of the college preparation process includes blasting through YouTube’s entire algorithm of “College Essentials” videos. From the most mundane of items (trash cans, laundry detergent, you get the idea) to the prized personal ones (because I am here to tell you that your stuffed animals are essential), you can find a pretty well-prescribed list of things to bring without having to search very far. I did this and, now that I have had some time for reflection, can say I fared rather well. This blog exists for a reason, though, so if you read the title and have presumed I left some things out, you are indeed correct. But not so fast, these items are all things I didn’t know I would come to love (or desperately need) until after I got all settled in. So, without further ado, here are some unintentional essentials: 

  1. Raid® Multi Insect Killer 

    We’re kicking off the list with the practical side of things so stick with me here–things will get more exciting later down the list (but, come on now, what could possibly be more exhilarating than a bottle of insect annihilator). My time at Oberlin has been filled with so many pleasant surprises and, especially with the events of the past year, I’m doubling down on how grateful I am for the small things in life. But you know what wasn’t a pleasant surprise? Ants. And those heathens are tiny. Yes, I did indeed return back on campus to find ants in my room. Don’t ask me how they got there. My room was clean before I left campus–trust and believe. But, for whatever reason, my room became home to some uninvited guests while I was away. After killing as many as I could on the spot (of which I’d estimate there were about 15), I made sure my room was spotless before bringing out the big guns. That’s right: Raid® Multi Insect Killer–the true unsung hero of 2021. After I fumigated my room for 12 hours, those fiends stood no chance and, while they’re gone now, this incident did leave a rather odorous scar on my living space which leads me to...

  2. Air Fresheners (plug-in or bottle) 

    Yep, that’s it. That’s the segue. Partly out of a need to mask the overwhelming scent of insecticide but also because they really make a difference in a space, air fresheners are a nice addition to my day-to-day existence. Nothing says you’ve got your life together like a pleasant-smelling dorm room. My room is a single, making it objectively pretty small, so a little pop of fragrance goes a long way. The great thing about air fresherners is that there are so many options. Fancy a sweet floral scent? Or perhaps a bright citrussy one? Whatever your oddly specific scent profile happens to be, I’m sure there is an freshener out there that’ll fit the bill. (Avoid candles with a burned wick; open flames are not allowed in college housing.)

  3. Google Chrome Music Extensions 

    Let’s face it. We all stare at our screens for hours every day, so here is something I’ve found that really sparks joy while I spend my days living as a Zoom zombie: Google Chrome music extensions. I never thought much about browser extensions until I found Nook: a Google Chrome extension that plays hourly Animal Crossing music corresponding to the time setting of the device it's connected to. Mind. Blown. If you aren’t into Animal Crossing or have other music you'd prefer, there are a variety of Chrome extensions that play music hourly throughout the day. Don't get me wrong; I will always love Spotify and am no stranger to a YouTube playlist, but there is just something so comforting about having a little virtual radio to accompany me whenever I’m traversing the 20+ tabs on my browser. 

  4. Fairy Lights or LED Strip Lights

    Not going to lie, I thought the idea of stringing up lights was a bit cheesy prior to college. There’s lights in the room, right? And a window, too? Sure, fairy lights are cute, but are they really worth the mon- Yes. Yes they are. Bought a strip of LED lights from Walmart, and they’ve changed my life. They are a lovely addition to my space and have had a surprisingly profound effect on my mood. I have the ones that change color–which I highly recommend. Especially this year, stuck between the same four walls day in and day out, changing the color of the lights makes me see my same ol’ dorm room all anew. Personally, purple and cyan are my favorites. So, what say you? 

  5. WindowSwap 

    Speaking of being surrounded by the same four walls every day, here’s a virtual escape from the monotony: WindowSwap. WindowSwap is a website that allows you to look into a window from somewhere else in the world. Look out into a homely garden in Sweden; watch over the bustling activity of Ottawa from a skyscraper; enjoy a seaside view in Puerto Rico; what about overlooking a mountainside town in Austria? I could spend hours just browsing all the options. What’s more–they come with sound effects from the scene itself. It is really quite immersive. I know I’ve had my fair share of moments feeling cooped up and stressed, so seeing a part of the world from another perspective helps to put my own life in perspective. It’s a real breath of fresh air sometimes. Plus, you can occasionally find a lovely backyard view with a dog sound asleep. What more is there to want? 

On that note, this concludes my list as of now. Only one semester is behind me, so I’m quite certain that I’ll stumble upon a few more unintentional essentials at some point down the line. Perhaps by then you'll have discovered some of your own. See you over at Part Two (maybe–can't guarentee that'll happen either)! 

P.S. Here is a family portrait. 

Me sitting on my bed with 8 stuffed animals: 3 Pokémon, 4 seals, and 1 cat.
Photo Credit: Jonathan (JY) Yuan
The one in my lap is nicknamed Bestie. Enough said. 


Responses to this Entry

Hey Ben, just a friendly heads-up from the housing regulations:

Presence of burned candles, incense, or anything with an open flame, even for religious purposes, is not allowed in college housing.

So you might want to avoid actually lighting your candles.

Posted by: David Walker on February 16, 2021 4:04 PM

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