You Get What You Put In
Students everywhere are settling in to a new academic year, whether at an elementary school or the first year of graduate school. In any of these scenarios, wonder, excitement, and anticipation ring loud, long, and true.
What also rings true is that change and new experiences are inevitable. How you respond to all this newness is up to you. But let me join the chorus and offer a few ideas and reminders as you navigate and make the most of your first year--or returning year--at Oberlin.
Don't try to be good at everything. Try something totally un-you. It's OK to fail at something. Failure breeds character and perhaps a few hard-earned laughs. Besides, Oberlin's incredibly supportive community won't allow you to wallow in self-pity for long.
Get to know your academic advisor (your go-to person for all manner of academic and personal issues). Should you not make a love connection, ask about getting a new advisor.
Explore communities outside of Oberlin. While you might not have a car, you can rent a bike via Oberlin's noted Bike Co-op and take short treks to nearby towns: Kipton, Wellington, Amherst. Venture off campus so as to enhance your experience and appreciation of life on campus. Check Oberlin Classifieds for rides to such communities as Cleveland, North Ridgeville, Avon Lake, Elyria, for shopping, movies, clubs, eateries, and more.
Check out all the 4.4-square mile campus. See what life is like on the north or south side. Peters Hall has an observatory and planetarium. The conservatory has intimate venues like Kulas Recital Hall, where you can hear classmates and faculty in recital and chamber groups, or sit in on a masterclass by a renowned musician or composer. Have a meal at Lord Saunders Dining Hall in Afrikan Heritage House, or test your mettle on the climbing wall in Philips Gym.
You know this already: Get involved. A good first start is attending the Connections Fair, a campuswide effort to introduce you to the range of student groups, clubs, organizations, and sports and recreation programs eager for new ideas and new members.
Have a plan; don't fail to plan. With so much to do and choose from, it's easy to overcommit, overschedule, overdo, and overwhelm yourself. While some students thrive having a full agenda, too much "stuff" can lead to undue stress (OK, 30 minutes in the massage chair or a night at the 'Sco may take care of that), which can lead to circumstances beyond your control. By all means get involved but be realistic about what you can manage along with your studies.
Play games, whether online or on the field.
Ease your mind from the pressure and challenge of schoolwork and immerse yourself in another kind of challenge, one that frees the mind and the spirit.
Go to least one convocation, one academic-based lecture, one concert--classical, R & B, hip-hop, alternative, jazz, blues, folk--it's all here, and one of any other type of event of your choosing.
Get to know other people (staff, too) who are different from you in every way--from your religious and political views, to what you eat, to where you were raised, to where you like to hang out, to what you're studying, to what you listen to on your iPod.
Don't make excuses: Just do. Don't let angst or shyness or ... hold you back. You heard the saying--a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. You took the first step by coming to Oberlin. Now that you're here, what are you going to do? You'll get from Oberlin what you put into it. Make the journey here one you won't regret taking.
Photos courtesy of Al Fuchs, Megan Harding, and Brannon Rockwell-Charland '14