Oberlin Blogs

What's On Our Desks?

November 19, 2014

Brendan Nuse ’17 and Frances Casey ’17


I think that you can tell a lot about a person from their workspace. Messy, clean, spare, cluttered--the desk of a college student can reveal more than what classes they're taking. I usually don't work at my desk. I like to work in Mudd, sometimes in a study carrel and often in one of the hidden cushion corners our library is full of. When I work in my room, it's usually sprawled out on my bed, where I'm probably alternating between reading for a class and watching a terrible TV show on Netflix. So my desk is considerably less messy than the rest of my room. I'm trying to use it more--the studying in bed situation has been aggravating my already terrible posture--and in fact, I'm writing this while sitting there at this very moment. As I write this, I'm noticing that this desk was clearly built for someone taller than me, because right now I feel like a little kid sitting at the grown-up table. This is irrelevant; let's look at some pictures of my desk:

This is the top half:
Desk shelf with organized books

This is the bottom half:
Organized desk with books and a computer

Let's take it from the top. On the far left is a mixture of books I've bought for past classes, favorites I've brought from home, and childhood relics. Included in this mix are India: A History, Into the Wild (one of my all time favorite books), "The Women of SNL" compilation DVD, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In front of the books is my little set of purple speakers that I use to blast inspiring music while I fold my laundry.

To the right are framed photos of my friends from home, my grandparents, and a card my mom sent me once. I agree with Brendan that having pictures that remind you of your friends and family are important, especially when you're currently living thousands of miles away from each other.

On the far right of the shelf is a little piece o' art my friend Emily made for me, and sent to me about a year ago in a wonderful care package. At the time, I had been at Oberlin for about a month, and I still remember how great it felt to see that I was remembered by people other than my parents. Send mail to your friends, y'all! It will make them so happy and they'll put it on their desk! In front of Emily's artwork is my Nikkormat camera from the '70s. My dad took it to Oberlin back when he went here! Wow! I used this camera a lot last year, but I haven't taken any pictures since the photo store in my hometown closed. I still need to find a trustworthy place to get my film developed, either in Oberlin or back home. Seeing if I can use the darkroom here on campus is also on my to-do list. I also used this camera for my photography-centered winter term project last year.

Below the top shelf of my desk I have taped two pictures: One is cut out of a clothing catalog that says "Italian Cashmere: Go on. Treat yourself - you deserve it." I find this quote very inspirational. I don't exactly have the resources to treat myself to Italian cashmere, but I sometimes use this quote to justify buying some pretzels at DeCafe or something. The second picture is of my cats being weird back home. I miss them so much!

Ok, now for the top half:

On the far left are some books that I'm using this semester, including a bunch of books about African history, a Human Biology textbook, and The Science Beneath the Surface: A Very Short Guide to the Marcellus Shale, which I read for my class about fracking. There are also two black Moleskine notebooks, which I like to use for most of my classes because they are compact, but still hold a lot of pages. I also feel very classy using them. Interested in an endorsement deal, Moleskine?

In front of those books n' things are MORE books n' things: my Human Biology notebook (not Moleskine, sorry) covered in the many reproductive justice stickers I get through SURF, and my Oberlin seal-emblazoned academic planner. Some people like to keep a schedule using the calendar on their computer, but I prefer to do it the old fashioned, paper way.

Hanging to the left is a green piece of paper handed out by the Registrar that has all the important deadlines I need to know; stuff like the last day to withdraw from a course, when the winter term registration deadline is, etc. Useful stuff.

Below is a photograph of some scenery from home and a few pictures of my friends and I. My computer, my trusted friend, takes front and center. To the right is my very important Marvin Krislov stress ball.

My lamp...is a lamp. Its base is also a place to store school supplies, so that's cool I guess.

Underneath, some gingersnaps my mom sent me. Snacks are such an important part of the college diet. Especially when you eat in a co-op.

Finally, on the far right: my beloved Siposaurus. A dinosaur cup with a straw. Pure magic.

That's it! My desk, a window into my soul...


I'm not ashamed to admit it - when I was looking at Oberlin, I read these blogs obsessively (and I still do). I think I mentioned in our last post that I always loved reading the posts about classes, but my all-time favorite post was this one by Emily about books, and I when I found out that I was going to be a blogger, I immediately wanted to try to replicate it. Unfortunately, this type of post doesn't work too well when you aren't taking a lot of literature classes. However, Frances and I decided that we could do a similar post with pictures of our desks (mine features all three of my textbooks so I guess this is that cool book post within a broader post)!

Organized desk with various items

Desk shelf with food and a bop-it
Desk with kleenex and a computer

Starting from the top left, we can see that I have a bunch of food. There are almonds, peanut butter (I'm not ashamed to admit I'll probably eat that out of the jar with a spoon), Ramen (essential), and some other food items. Although I usually eat in one of the three dining halls on campus (see our previous post on food), it's important to have some food in case something goes wrong. For example, today I woke up much earlier than I would normally expect to on a weekend. I usually plan not to eat breakfast in a dining hall on the weekends, so I did not have enough meals to go to breakfast. Luckily, I was able to grab a granola bar out of my bag of food, so it all worked out!

Moving to the right on the top shelf we see some items that seem random, but are very important. There are my goggles, which were pretty important when I was taking a swim class during the first half of the semester. There's the wellness kit given out by Student Health during orientation last year. I don't think I've used anything in it yet, but I appreciate my access to a stress ball.

Moving right again, we come across the most important item in my life - no, to ever exist! It's a Bop-It Xtreme that I picked up from the Free Store when I first got here this year. The Free Store is a pretty cool part of Oberlin. You can donate items that you don't want anymore, rather than throwing them away, and then people can come in and take things for free. The fact that anyone would have wanted to get rid of their Bop-It astonishes me, but I'm glad that they did, since it allowed me access to this beautiful relic. Bop-It is my passion and my biggest talent. Maybe I'll write a post about it sometime...

On the far right of the top shelf is this really cool "shadow box" picture frame. I got it at a garage sale for like 80 cents. It has a bunch of pictures of my friends from high school, but the cool thing is that it puts them on different levels in the frame, so there's an aspect of depth in the picture frame. So basically I have a cool collage of pictures of my friends. I think it's important to have some things that remind you of your friends from home, since you see them pretty rarely once you're in college. This picture frame is the only thing like that I have, though, so maybe that's hypocritical.

Moving to the main part of my desk, on the far left we have a few useful items. Like three boxes of tissues. I'm not exactly sure why I have three boxes of tissues on my desk, but I need tissues for all the times I'm going to get sick in the upcoming winter, which I'm sure will be absurdly cold forever. That's Ohio for you. I also have a huge roll of tape that I picked up at Wilder (the student union building) last year for $0.99. That's cheaper than a load of laundry, and it's certainly lasted me longer. Meanwhile, the graphing calculator next to the tape cost like $100, which I guess is less absurd if you think about the fact that I've had it for over four years.

To the right we have a container where I have some writing utensils and the ever-important flashcards that I made during the first week of Chinese my first semester at Oberlin. The more of this post I write the more I realize that the theme of this blog post seems to be questioning why I have any of the things I have on my desk. To drive that point home, next to the container is a battery-powered pencil sharpener that I never put batteries in and a staple remover, despite the fact that I don't have a stapler. Then I have my glasses case, which is good, since I wear glasses.

In the large white box, I have some stationery that my parents gave me for my birthday so I could write letters to my grandmother - now that I think of it, I should probably be writing one of those now. It's pretty cute stationery since it has pictures of my cats on it, though the pictures of me at my senior prom kind of detract from the cute factor - I only wish I could live up to cats.

In the front, we have my laptop. That sentence was very meta, since I'm writing this on my laptop right now. On the right, we have an open notebook and a pen. Those are my Urban Political Ecology notes, which gives the illusion that I was taking notes on a reading that I was doing on my laptop, when in reality, you and I both know I was taking a picture of my desk rather than doing any work at all.

Behind that we have a water bottle, since it's important to stay hydrated, and we also have my textbooks, which are important because learning is what I went to college for! I wish I could elaborate a lot on my textbooks, but, honestly, they're textbooks, which aren't nearly as exciting to talk about as novels are. My Chinese textbook has been super helpful in improving my language skills. It also has the added bonus of having been the textbook for my Chinese classes the past three semesters, which significantly cut down on the money I spent on books. My statistics textbook is much like most of the math textbooks I had in high school, except that my professor wrote it! I've been in college for almost a year and a half and I still can't get over the fact that professors do super cool things when they aren't struggling to put up with my presence in class. My economics textbook has a really pretty cover, but I haven't used it as much as I expected, since our course material deviates quite a bit from the textbook.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of my desk. Of course, it's important to remember that everyone has different working styles and living spaces. For example, my roommate and I are good friends, but also very different people. Here's a picture of his desk:

Disorganized desk

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