Oberlin Blogs

What (not) to bring

August 11, 2010

Tess Yanisch ’13

Hello all pre-fresh-folk! Orientation starts in just under a month, which means it's time for you to start packing for college. Deciding what to take, what to buy once you get there, and what to leave behind can be a very stressful process, as can packing itself, so I'm going to walk you through it.

How To Pack

You want to scrounge up large, decent cardboard boxes to pack everything in. You can buy these at UPS stores and similar places, or you can go to grocery stores and ask if they have any in the back.

Then tape them shut with good-quality packing tape. Do the corners and sides, as well, to be sure it won't pop open at the weak points.

Scotch packaging tape.

If you're sending out boxes of books, paper, DVDs, CDs, etc—which I would recommend keeping to a minimum—you can save money by shipping it via media mail. Just don't put it in a Priority Mail box, and be sure you write "MEDIA" all over it. Don't put anything in here that you've written in or would be heartbroken to lose. It's much cheaper than paying for first-class, especially since that kind of thing is heavy.

A box is taped up for shipping, with the word Media handwritten with a marker

Now, don't worry, it won't actually take you a month to pack. The lengthy part of the process is the decision-making bit, because there are so many unknown variables: how much storage space will you have? What's the weather going to be like? How much soap/deodorant/coffee do you go through in four months? Will it be cheaper to get there? Will people appreciate your witty t-shirts?

(Answers: storage space depends on what kind of room you have; Oberlin is humid sometimes, gorgeous others, and freezing in winter; I don't know how fast you use up your soap, but bring lots of it; most things are cheaper to get on sale at home and ship ahead; there will be at least one person on campus who will appreciate your shirt.woot! or Questionable-Content-inspired garments, and if you're wearing a Firefly BROWNCOAT shirt, you just may get random hugs.)

Some things you may want to buy in Elyria—the nearest town to Oberlin with a Target and Wal-Mart—but if you ship ahead, you can hunt for better deals. If, like me, you live on the West Coast and are flying out alone to start you college career, you have no choice but to ship everything in advance, and it'll take a while, so get started now. (Don't worry, the mail room will let you borrow a dolly to get all your boxes to your room.)

Obviously, I can't answer all of your questions for you, but I can give you a basic grounding and perhaps remind you of some things you'd otherwise forget to bring.

Do bring clothes . . .

Stacks of folded clothes

Running shoes and sandals

. . . do not bring this kind of clothes.

A shoulder-less black dress on a hanger

Do bring clothes for cold weather.

Wool socks and a hand warmer


An interesting note on clothing: one of my professors in Psychology 100 remarked that, during the first week or so, she can always pick out the freshmen—they dress differently. Then the subliminal social pressure of Oberlin tends to push them closer toward the stylistic norm. This isn't to say that all Obies dress alike (certainly not!), but there are certain patterns.

For instance, you don't see people wearing sweatpants a lot (well, maybe in the dorm lounges, but not in classes or at lunch). Granted, this could be because sweats are too hot on warm days and the wind goes right through them on cold days, but that's not all. I don't see a lot of stylishly-ripped-up jeans, either, and not many hoodie sweatshirts—other kinds of jackets, yes, but very few hoodies. I've even found myself affected by this slightly: I tend to look more neat, wear more tailored clothes, and wear a little bit of makeup almost every day. Cue Twilight Zone music.

Do bring toiletries—the kind of thing you'd usually find in your bathroom.

Electric toothbrush on a charging stand

L'Oreal Kids shampoo and Garnier Fructis conditioner

Soap on a stick-on soap dish

A tube of antibiotic ointment

Two containers of sunscreen: Banana Boat Sport SPF 50 and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer SPF 85+.

A spray can of 3M Ultra Thon insect repellant

Do not bring everything you'd find in your bathroom.

A tube of tile and grout caulk

Do bring daily necessities.

A pillow in its packaging with a TJ Maxx sticker. Brand name is Hotel.

Folded blankets and sheets

Folded towel and wash cloths

JanSport backpack

A small lamp and alarm clock.

Do not bring extra dorm furniture—you won't have room for it.

Folding chair

Do bring a few books or notebooks you will use often.

Books including a dictionary, several Tolkien books, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of fantasy, a Star Trek guide, and a couple of Terry Pratchett books.

Do not bring as many as I did.

3 partially opened cardboard boxes holding the rest of the books.

Do bring non-perishable, easy-packing food (it's cheaper to buy it at home than in Oberlin, believe me).

Lots of oatmeal packets, a bag of almonds, and a package of dried cranberries.

Do not bring this kind of food.

A fresh pineapple

Do bring some music.

iPod with ear buds

Try to make it compact—not like this.

Music CDs spilling out of an overfilled basket

Bring instruments, too! I forgot to take a picture of my violin, but if you can transport it, by all means bring your guitar, flute, cello, lap-harp, vuvuzela, didgeridoo, etc. Many people who are not in the Con play instruments. Join us. (I heard a rumor that there actually is someone on campus with a digeridoo.)

It's pretty sunny during fall and spring, so do bring sunglasses.


You should probably bring a laptop—not necessary, as there are computer labs, but it's very useful to have your own.

HP laptop computer and mouse

It's helpful to have an external hard drive, CDs, or a thumb drive, too.

Tube containing rewritable CDs

There are poster fairs if you want to buy them on campus, or you can bring old favorites to decorate your room.

Movie poster for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

If you want to, bring a few DVDs—but, like the books, not too many.

A couple dozen DVDs on a shelf, including the Harry Potter series and Star Trek.

Last but not least, if you want to bring along the equipment for some hobby and it packs up small, go for it!

Lord of the Rings Role Playing Game: Core Book

A boy of about 10 with juggling balls
My little brother, juggling. Bring juggling balls, not siblings—they're too large to pack.
The boy is juggling 3 balls.
He wanted me to post this picture—“I'm a tri-clops!”—so I did.

Like little brothers, cats are too large to pack, so don't bring pets.

A fluffy, rotund cat looks annoyed


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