During one of our blogger workshops last spring, Andres and Tom proposed a challenge for the bloggers: can we reshape the existing orientation schedule for maximum awesome? In essence, how many different ways could we take a giant list of activities and possibilities and turn all these things into LIVE EVENTS FILLED WITH PEOPLE and also manageable and exciting?
With the challenge issued (and conveyed to the blogging team once the schedule was up on the new students website), I dove into the schedule to see what I could do with this year's set of orientation activities. I was seeing it through new eyes this year: It's the eighth Oberlin orientation I'll be a part of, and I've got a lot of experience with it — and I haven't written about it since 2012! Add in the fact that just last weekend, I scurried off to DC to hang out with some dear friends that I met IRL for the first time at my orientation left me feeling all cozy-nostalgic for those first few days of romping care-free around Oberlin in a giant fresh-person pack before we settled into our lives as Oberlin students.
To me, orientation is a combination of three major things: getting a feel for your new home, meeting new people, and preparing yourself for upcoming classes. How you choose to do these things is up to you, but the orientation schedule has a few suggestions.
So I present: the Ma'ayan Checklist of Must-Do Things during orientation.
You'll note that there are major actions you should definitely complete during your first week in Oberlin, and you can fulfill them through a variety of required and supplementary events! If you want to explore the full guide to orientation on your own, it can be found here.
✔ Eat a meal with at least one person you haven't met before. (Bonus if you meet at least one new person per day at a meal!)
I stand by my mindset that friends made over meals will remain some of your closest relationships, anywhere. Luckily for you: we all have to eat, and there are many opportunities to dine together during orientation in particular.
- Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner - All students regardless of dining plan are covered for meals in the dining hall for the first few days of orientation. Protip: practically no one knows anyone during these first few meals. Sit down, make a new friend, and invite someone to sit with you once you've settled at your table.
- Campus picnic - This occurs on move-in day, and it's also a good time to bond with your roommate(s)' parents/family. This will easily segue into the orientation concert, so you can even have a seatmate when you walk over to Finney Chapel.
- OSCA picnic - This is on the second day of orientation, and it's a great introduction to co-op eats and the glorious Tank lawn.
- Transfer student pizza dinner and the gap year student pizza dinner - Two opportunities to connect with fellow transfers or gap year Obies with a side of pizza. These dinners are Wednesday night and Thursday night, respectively.
- Double Degree Peer Advising Dinner and Group Advising Lunches - These are required meals that double as discussion time for upcoming academic requirements, and it's a great time to chat with other students about possible schedules and meet your academic ambassador (protip: ask your ambassador about favorite professors!). These meals are Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, respectively.
- J-House Garden BBQ - An opportunity to not only share a meal with other Obies, but to see from whence your food originated! The BBQ is on Friday evening.
- Shabbat Dinner at Kosher-Halal Co-op and Shabbos Dinner at Chabad - An opportunity to meet new people over a home-cooked meal on Friday evening.
- Muslim and Jewish Community Picnic - A Sunday evening opportunity to eat together and listen to music on Harkness Bowl.
- The Africana Students Welcome and Cookout, the Latinx Students Welcome and Cookout, and the Asian/Pacific American Welcome and Cookout - While the welcome cookouts are on the weekend before Labor Day following the first week of classes, this definitely still counts as an opportunity to share a meal with someone you haven't met yet. The Africana Students cookout is on Saturday afternoon, and the Latinx and Asian/Pacific America cookouts are both on Sunday, the former in the afternoon, the latter in the evening.
✔ Make your ears happy.
We all know that Oberlin is music and music is Oberlin. The best way to orient yourself to Oberlin is to become familiar with the sounds of what will be in store for you for the next few years: music from your fellow classmates and Obies of various years and visiting performers and acts. You can get a dose of all of this during your first few days on campus!
- Organ performance at the start of the opening session - This is Tuesday afternoon, and makes for a fine unpacking/room organizing break. Also the session that follows is required... so you should go, since the organ sets the tone (heehee) for the rest of the presentation.
- Orientation concert - Not required but you should definitely go! This is concert number one of over five hundred that will take place this year, and it's a good opening performance for the rest of the school year.
- Variety Showcase at the Cat in the Cream - Starring YOU. And if it doesn't star you, it stars people who might futurely be your friends. Also Cat cookies.
- Eskimeaux at the 'Sco - The first 'Sco show of the year.
- Shivering Timbers at the Cat in the Cream - The first official Cat show of the year. Did I mention Cat cookies?
- Jazz Forum - A weekly occurrence at the Cat at noon on Fridays. The first one is at the end of the first week of classes.
✔ Talk to at least one person who works at Oberlin.
People who work at Oberlin know lots of things. As a person who works for Oberlin, here is my advice: we are not scary and there are so many ways we can (and will) help you. We've all been there, done that (even some of us have been there, done that at Oberlin!) and we have so many things to share with you to make your Oberlin experience better. Added bonus: most every office on campus employs students in some form or another. This is a good opportunity to learn about what kind of work you can do with us!
- Resource Fair and Music Resource Fair - A good time to talk individually with a wide variety of Oberlin staff members from all shapes and sizes of campus offices and collect lots of information to reference later. Both fairs take place on Tuesday.
- Library tours: Passport to Mudd, Conservatory Library Tour, Science Library Tour, Art Library Tour - There's more than books in each of these libraries, and you'll meet some of the wonderful library staffers who hold all the library secrets during these tours. All these tours take place on Friday.
- Academic advising: group and individual - required events, yes, but you'll learn all kinds of important things about academic life in the group meeting and talk over your schedule and classes in the individual meeting with your advisor. Both will prepare you for that glorious thing known as class registration! Group advising is on Thursday morning, individual advising is Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
- Departmental Open House - Every academic department will have at least one faculty member on hand to talk about courses and major requirements. Ask a billion questions! The open house is on Wednesday.
- Ice Cream Party - There are a lot of orientation events that try to lure you with ice cream (it will almost definitely be hot the last weeks of August, the ice cream is a good relief from the temperature and humidity), but one event in particular will allow you to meet Oberlin staff: the admissions ice cream party! If you haven't yet met the person who read your application (or you just want to say hi to them again), this is a good opportunity to do so. The ice cream party is on Friday afternoon.
- Coping with Change, Living with Stress - College is darned difficult, and this session with members of the counseling center will equip you with information and strategies to help you through. This session is on Friday.
- Green Orientation - An opportunity to learn more about sustainability efforts through action and academics. This session is on Friday.
- Edmonia Lewis Center Open House - An opportunity to connect with the ELC board and student, staff, and administrative supporters who work together to transform existing systems of oppression. The open house is on Sunday.
- Multicultural Resource Center Open House - The MRC community coordinators are some of the nicest people, not just in Oberlin but in the whole WORLD. Their space is very inviting and I encourage you to spend time there (not just during the open house on Sunday, though this is a good introductory time to visit).
- Religious and Spiritual Life - There are a variety of affiliate religious leaders who partner with the Oberlin staffed office of religious and spiritual life, and through individual and group programming, you'll have the opportunity to meet lots of them.
- Visit a campus office - During the workweek, most campus offices are open 9am-4:30pm. Drop by!
✔ Take note of some Oberlin-specific advice (academic and beyond).
All these sessions are required and cover different aspects of your new life at Oberlin as a student and as a member of our community. Full descriptions and time options (all but two of these sessions have several options for attendance, but attendance is required so plan accordingly) are in the orientation schedule.
- The Residential Education Experience - There are two sessions, both on Tuesday.
- Essential Details about Your Oberlin Education - This is only offered once, on Wednesday morning.
- Making the Most of Your Oberlin Education - This is only offered once, on Wednesday morning.
- Honor System Presentation - There are four sessions, three on Wednesday afternoon and one on Thursday morning.
- Advising: group sessions, individual, advising lunches/dinners - Group advising is on Thursday morning, individual advising is Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
- Many Voices/Building Communities Diversity Panel - There are two sessions, one on Wednesday night and one on Thursday night, and you'll attend based on where you live. One night will be this session, the other night will be The OC.
- The OC: A Play about Relationships and College Life - There are two sessions, one on Wednesday night and one on Thursday night, and you'll attend based on where you live. One night will be this session, the other night will be the Many Voices panel.
✔ Warm up and flex your cranium.
Even though classes don't start for a few days yet, you might want to take advantage of some placement exams and auditions to assure that you're in the right place once you begin classes the following week. Unlike the previous sections, I'm not indicating additional info/times so I don't forget something important. Check the guide for full relevant details.
- Language placement tests
- Math readiness test
- Chemistry placement tests
- Conservatory Aural Skills test
- Jazz Theory and Jazz Aural Skills tests
- Conservatory Music History 101 Exemption Exam
- Auditions for Secondary Lessons, Women's Chorale, Oberlin College Choir, Collegium Musicum, large ensemble winds and brass, large ensemble strings, large ensemble bassoon, the Arts & Sciences Orchestra, jazz ensemble auditions
- Chamber Music Reading sessions
- Auditions for Theater 100
✔ Warm up and flex the rest of your body.
Once upon a time, all Oberlin students had to put in physical labor as a part of their Oberlin experience. While student jobs are still a big part of the learning-while-doing experience here on campus, labor can also be fun physical activity. Here are some ways you can get moving during orientation:
- Fun and Fitness at Philips - Actually, this is more of a facility tour but it will tell you all you need to know about doing things in Philips once the school year starts. Open for exploration on Friday.
- Outdoor Volleyball - a fun team-building opportunity on Friday afternoon.
- Bowling and Billiards - Lots of hours on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and throughout the school year.
- Ultimate Frisbee - The Preying Manti and the Flying Horsecows will be playing on North Quad on Friday afternoon. Join them!
- Oberlin Swing Society Welcome Dance - Beginning swing dancers have two opportunities for short lessons during the first dance of the year. The dance and lessons take place on Saturday night.
- XTREME water games with OCF - Knowing the temperature during the last week of August, I bet this is a good decision for Sunday afternoon.
- Club Sports Fair - Figure out you chosen way to stay moving throughout the school year during the Monday fair.
✔ Get to know your new location.
Oberlin the college and Oberlin the town are nicely nestled together. It's a lovely stroll from wherever you live to anywhere downtown (or bike ride, but beware! Don't ride your bike on the sidewalks in town).
- You Are Here - a walking tour of town sponsored by the Eclectic Christians of Oberlin on Friday afternoon.
- Set up a local bank account - local banks will be present in Wilder on Tuesday, but if you don't manage to do your money things then, you can visit any of the local banks in town throughout the week.
- Shop locally - If you left something at home, you can probably find it in town. Don't forget to check out the Oberlin Farmers Market on Saturday mornings in the Oberlin Public Library parking lot until the end of October!
- Breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinner/dessert/a midnight snack - In my ideal world where I can actually partake in six meals a day, I would go to the following places in order of previously mentioned meals: Slow Train (iced chai), The Feve (any savory pancakes), Treehugger's Cafe (the mushroom melt), Black River Cafe (whatever seasonal salad and main course is on the menu that day), Cowhaus Creamery (cartoon milk ice cream with cartoon crack, or whatever fruity delicious ice cream or sorbet is new for the day), and Agave (half nachos).
- Day of Service - many Day of Service sites are within a ten-minute walk of Tappan Square, and your service contributions aid a variety of local groups and organizations. Day of Service is on Saturday.
✔ Bonus: Do at least one thing out of Oberlin.
Oberlin is located in Lorain County, a lakefront county in northeastern Ohio (seriously, drive straight on OH-58 for 12 miles and you will end up in Lake Erie). We're between a 30 and 60 minute drive to most everything in the fine city of Cleveland. If you find yourself with a bit of time between arriving in Ohio and moving into your room, take advantage of your wheeled existence and exploring your surroundings. If you're arriving in Oberlin in time to move in, you have two other possible opportunities:
- Day of Service - There are a few community service spots outside of Oberlin. Don't worry, transportation is provided if your Day of Service spot isn't within walking distance. Day of Service is on Saturday.
- Cedar Point - Roller coaster water park adventure time! Transportation is included with the purchase of your ticket at the Wilder Desk. The Cedar Point trip happens on Labor Day.
- Cleveland - Best done when your family/a set of wheels is still at your disposal.
✔ Score some free stuff.
I love free stuff (who doesn't love free stuff?) but I especially love useful free stuff. There are a few specific opportunities to obtain free things:
- Fresh Swap - ideal for general room things like trash cans, hangers, and such, but you never know what you'll find at the Swap!
- Resource Fair - there will be Oberlin swag. Snag some. (I got an Oberlin laundry bag from the alumni association that still serves as my comforter storage bag in the summer.)
- Library Tours - go on a library tour, learn lots about what the library has beyond books and computers, get one of those utterly indispensable closed-top beverage containers that will inevitably become fused to your person throughout college.
- Free Store Opening - If you didn't get enough of a dose during Fresh Swap, come back for more when the Free Store opens! The Free Store is legit amazing. Highlights from my Free Store "shopping" include my first cooking implements for my first house originated in the Free Store, plus a super lightweight but extremely warm down jacket found at the Free Store last year is now in regular rotation in my winter wear (also if you're lucky you might find my small collection of extra OCircus shirts from years past I donated last year).
There you have it! Your simple guide to making the most of Oberlin during your first week here. This will serve as a solid foundation of getting your new college life underway, and I'm very excited for you to build and climb the next steps. Go! Have fun! And I'll see you around very very soon :D