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


Responses to this Entry

It's perhaps worth noting that you don't have to go to Elyria to get to a Wal-Mart, as there's one within Oberlin's borders at the southernmost point. If you have a bicycle with a basket, it takes probably about 30-40 minutes round trip from campus.

Posted by: Joseph Spiros on August 11, 2010 4:36 PM

I'm surprised that you and Zoe both plan to buy and ship food, soap, and toothpaste from home rather than buying them in Oberlin. I'm not really convinced that you'd save much/any money in doing so.

Posted by: David on August 11, 2010 4:43 PM

Yo! I TOTALLY brought two prom dresses to Oberlin and I've worn them multiple times.

Posted by: Helena on August 11, 2010 8:32 PM

Most moving-in loads are bigger than can be managed with a bicycle basket, I would think, but for maintenance runs that's good to know--thanks!

Bringing food and soap ensures that you'll get the kind you want, I think. Besides, it's way easier to hunt for deals at home than at Oberlin--if you get a paper, there are coupons to clip, and you can drive to multiple stores. There's an IGA within walking distance from Oberlin, and there's Gibson's (overpriced but convenient), but if you want 40 packs of Trader Joe's oatmeal, like me, shipping is easier.

Where have you worn a prom dress to? I thought it might be amusing to wear one during finals, as comic relief, but there aren't any really dressy occasions, are there? :)

Posted by: Tess on August 11, 2010 8:42 PM

Haha, we had fancy poker nights on the Keep porch several times last year. - formal attire required.

Posted by: Helena on August 11, 2010 8:54 PM

Are there dressy occasions?!? Well, formal dances aren't the norm, but every now and then you may want to dress up for a dinner or, like me, for a night of swing dancing. I love getting dressed up, and in true Obie fashion, I invent occasions and coud give a damn who looks sideways at me. Personal favorites: Formal Fridays (during the warm months, you dress up all day Friday, especially for classes), a tea party, movie screenings, photo shoots to help out my photographer friends...at least one semi-formal (nicer than you'd wear to an office job) dress is a good idea to have for female-types, and a jacket and slacks for male-types. On the other hand, having these items on hand for friends of different gender persuasions for drag ball is also eternally appreciated.

Posted by: Brandi on August 11, 2010 9:05 PM

My fancy dresses made appearances at various Harkness Prom special meals, OSCA prom, senior formal (both during mine and the one I crashed last year), and during fancy dress-up meals during winter term.

And then I had this one dress that I've never worn here at Oberlin in seriousness (I wore it for a photoshoot once) but that I have lent to three different boys for three different occasions, some serious, some not.a

Posted by: Ma'ayan on August 11, 2010 9:17 PM

Heh! It seems I've been missing out. Well, if I can get any dress from WA to OH in decent shape, perhaps I shall...

Posted by: Tess on August 11, 2010 11:35 PM

Definitely bring dresses!

Posted by: Anonymous on August 12, 2010 4:13 PM

I disagree with the wearing more tailored clothes and wearing more makeups comment. My wardrobe has definitely shifted toward the thrift store end, and I look more like a dirty hippy/hobo than ever (particularly in winter). I would also recommend bringing a whacky costume or multi-use dress up items. Many parties are themed.

Posted by: Senior Babe on August 13, 2010 12:40 AM

EVERY occasion is a dressy occasion. Just saying.

Posted by: Patrick on August 24, 2010 4:41 PM

Leave a Comment

Similar Blog Entries

One Day in the Life

April 30, 2023

Phoebe McChesney

"Do you really want to know where I was April [28th]?"-- Courtesy of Ms. Taylor Swift. (It's really April 29th in the song. Just go with it!)
Phoebe McChesney.