College is different from high school in that you are in class for fewer hours but have to work a lot more outside of class, whether that’s reading, writing, working problem sets, doing group projects, or studying for exams. Oberlin’s motto is “Learning and Labor,” which is aggressively apt. When I am not in class, cooking/cleaning/eating in my co-op, going to the gym to climb or work out, hanging out with friends, or sleeping, I am doing homework! The place you work in can be really important, and at Oberlin I’m lucky that I have such a wide variety of places to work in. There is something for all kinds of people. Something I’ve noticed is that, in addition to being a lot more comfortable with background noise and listening to music while I work, each semester I’ve been at Oberlin I find myself working consistently in different places from the semester before. Without further ado, here is a (somewhat condensed) list of my favorite homework haunts on campus!
During my very first semester at Oberlin, I lived on North Campus in Barnard, the substance-free dorm. Barnard was conveniently located very close to Stevie, the main dining hall, and to the Science Center. The Science Center is a modern-esque building with classrooms, a nice atrium, and a library space (and also a greenhouse, which I’ve never been to). The Science Library was, without a doubt, my favorite working spot my first semester at Oberlin. It was literally a one-minute walk from my dorm and is quiet. If you eat too loudly in the science library, or your phone goes off by accident, you will probably get confused and/or dirty looks from hardworking students. My schedule at Oberlin in Fall 2017 was pretty insane, with 18 credits and 5 classes, all of which happened on Mondays and Fridays. I was super busy, so being able to go to a super focused and intensely quiet space—i.e. holing up in the science library for hours at a time—was what I needed during that time. I don’t go there anymore, but I have some pleasant memories of working in the science library watching the snow fall outside as I worked on study guides, projects, readings, and essays.
My second semester freshman year (Spring 2018) was a lot less intense than my first. Even though I still kept myself busy enough, I found that the Science Library was starting to feel a little too quiet—too intense and a bit stifling. However, the Science Center itself was still so close and convenient. My solution was migrating to the Science Center atrium, an area with lots of tables and high ceilings and large windows where plenty of students work. The atrium also has several couches with a few low tables. That semester I spent a ridiculous amount of time working on those couches with my friend Piper, to the point where if you didn’t know where either of us were, you could come to those couches and there would probably be at least a 90% chance that we’d be there. Piper and I spent an average of 8-9 hours a day together during that semester, much of it working on those couches, so I have many a fond memory of working there, even though I don’t work there anymore.
In Fall 2018 I moved into a beautiful co-op, Tank Hall. Although it’s in a nice location and a gorgeous building, it’s a little further from campus, and not particularly close to any libraries or academic buildings. Last semester was definitely one of my hardest ones at Oberlin. With a total of 20 credits and a full-time position in my co-op, teaching the Girls in Motion ExCo, and being a PAL, I had a lot on my plate (both figuratively and also literally: co-op food is great). The places I ended up doing work were pretty much dictated by convenience and my schedule and little else. For example, I had classes in King—so I worked in King before those classes. Sometimes I worked in Peters, where I had German class.
It was sometimes hard to see my friends on a regular basis because of how much I was doing, so I spent a lot of time in study hangouts in Azariah’s Café (affectionately referred to as Azzie’s) on the first floor of the main library. While working in Azzie’s with my friends often meant that I got little work done, it was a nice working space that was less intense, and also close to snacks and drinks, which I tried not to get too often to save my hard-earned blogger money. Besides mostly colonizing a small table in King and playing classical music to help me focus, or hanging out with friends in Azzie’s, I started working in my room a lot more. As a general rule, I try to make my room a sleeping and relaxing place, not a working place, but since Tank is sort of far away from campus, some evenings I would stay there after dinner rather than venture back to campus, which was especially unpleasant during the winter when it was wet, cold, windy, blizzarding, or some variation thereof. I sometimes work in the Tank lounge on a funky brown armchair that’s missing a cushion, though I know that if I go downstairs, I will inevitably end up participating in some strange discussion about forming a cave cooperative or if straight people are employable (these are actual conversations I have been a part of). As a result, I only went down there when I knew I didn’t have a lot of work to do. Overall, last semester involved a lot of mildly stressed and focused studying in convenient places.
This semester, I joke that I “live in Slow Train.” Slow Train is one of the two coffee shops in Oberlin and is a two- to three-minute walk from Tank, making it a prime study spot that is both cute and convenient. Some Tank diners even work there! Even though working at Slow Train means I spend far too much money on soy lattes and chai, I enjoy the ambient noise, which is something I enjoy far more than I used to! I used to not be able to work at all in loud places (hence the Science Library), but now it helps me focus. I especially like writing in Slow Train. There is something so fun about working on a comparative literature essay in a coffee shop surrounded by other college students—it fulfills some sort of odd liberal-arts, caffeine-fueled, life-of-the-mind fantasy I had in high school. I often end up in Slow Train more than once in a day… I probably spend an average of 3.5 hours a day there.
Unfortunately, Slow Train has ridiculously spotty wifi. I often joke that insisting on going there despite the horrible connection is my most consistent form of self-sabotage. When I’m not feeling Slow Train, or I get fed up with the lack of internet, I go to Severance Hall, which is the building where the Psychology Department is housed. There is a lab in Severance, which I often need to go to in order to work on stats projects or use the software on the lab computers. Severance has a really lovely lounge upstairs, with a bar style table next to windows. I love the natural light and being able to see Finney Chapel and look across Tappan Square. Now that Oberlin is sunnier and greener, with flowers blooming everywhere, it’s so lovely to sit up in Severance and get some work done.
I still work in my Tank room sometimes, and venture down to the lounge, but this is still when I want to work in a chill way and don’t have a lot to get done. It’s nice to feel so comfortable in my house and around the lovely people who live there. Plus, having access to a kitchen means I can usually find a study snack whenever I need one!
So, there you have it. There are many great places in Oberlin to work, and a wide variety means I can work at different places depending on the mood I’m in. I wonder where I’ll work next semester!
P.S. Congrats to those reading this who just committed to Oberlin College! A Huge Warm and Joyful Welcome to you! We can't wait to have you on campus!
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February 16, 2021