Cooper International Learning Center

Foreign Language Assistant Program

General Information for Language Assistants

During the August orientation you will be given almost all of the information that you will need to deal with your daily life in Oberlin. This handbook summarizes some of that information so that you can use it in case you forget something mentioned in the orientation or if you have questions before your arrival. It also covers things that are important to think about before your arrival in Oberlin.[1]

[1]This handbook was first drafted by Félix Zamora, who served as a Spanish FLPA in 2013-14. It has been revised by CILC and OCLC staff. Please direct any questions to Hsiu-Chuang Deppman or Blanche Villar. We encourage you to use this as a reference guide. For the most current and accurate information and policies, please contact the relevant college offices directly. Additional information is available in the International Student Handbook.

What is a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant and Program Assistant?

As a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant or Program Assistant, generally shortened to “TA” and “PA,” you will have a variety of opportunities and responsibilities that will provide greater insight into the workings of an educational institution such as Oberlin. Having the chance to take courses as a student and assist in teaching at the same time will help you develop both your learning and teaching skills. TAs have already completed an undergraduate degree, take courses up to half time, and are Oberlin staff. PAs are undergraduate students, take a full course load, and are considered students.

You are a very important resource for Oberlin students who are learning languages; you will help them with their assignments, practice the language with them, and work in language program houses. Take advantage of this opportunity, the unique perspectives of your position, and all that the college, conservatory, and city of Oberlin have to offer to you!

FLPA Orientation

This year, your orientation will begin on August 20. It is organized by the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the International Student Resource Center (ISRC), and the Cooper International Learning Center (CILC). One of the various sessions you will attend after arriving at Oberlin is the welcome brunch on August 25 for international students. Program assistants will then attend the International Student Orientation.

The CILC and the Oberlin Center for Languages and Culture (OCLC) will hold a Language Pedagogy Symposium on August 27.  The staffs of the CILC and OCLC will also be your main sources of day-to-day support, in addition to your department.  NB:  Your supervisors and job expectations will be communicated to your by your faculty in residence and or department chair.

Abe Reshad is the director of the Cooper International Learning Center and Academic Support. His office is located inside of the CILC. He is an expert on teaching second language, incorporating technology, and should be your first stop for any questions about integrating technology, developing new technology-based approaches, projects, or assignments, or if you need to borrow any technological equipment.

Professor Hsiu-Chuang Deppman, director of the Center for Languages and Cultures, also chairs the East Asian Studies Program. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and teaches Chinese language, cinema, and literature in translation at Oberlin College.

Before Oberlin

What to bring

The weather in Ohio is pretty crazy. One day can it be snowing and the next day can be sunny. Ohio has four distinct seasons; this means that every season here is real: the winter is a very cold and snowy winter and the summer is a very hot and humid summer. We recommend that you bring a good quality, very warm coat, gloves, a hat that covers your ears, and winter boots. These items are essential during the winter. Sometimes during the spring you will need a raincoat or an umbrella. We also recommend that, due to the changing weather, you bring lightweight and casual clothing that can be layered. The best option is to bring a bit of everything, keeping in mind that you will wear your coat and your winter boots everyday for a few months. In addition, you may want to bring an adapter for your electronic devices and items such as hairdryer, and so on.

Should I get these items beforehand?

You can always shop once you get to Oberlin. Keep in mind that Oberlin is a small town with only a few stores at which to buy clothing. Walmart, Shoe Depot, and Goodwill are the closest inexpensive stores, and you will need a car ride to get there. Consider ordering items online or going to the shopping malls in the cities nearby Oberlin. You can also visit Oberlin’s Free Store at the beginning of the school year to get free stuff! The city-wide garage sale in the beginning of the fall semester is another great opportunity to stock up on clothing, decorations, and other items.


You should arrive in Oberlin on or shortly before August 19th, 2018.  While we can help you into your accommodations if you arrive ahead of time, please keep in mind that the town is very quiet in the summer. Keep in touch with your Faculty-in-Residence (FiR) and Department Chair before you arrive in Oberlin to let them know your flight information so they can pick you up at the airport or help coordinate your pickup by someone else. If they cannot arrange for someone to pick you up, you can use the Oberlin shuttle from the airport to the city.


Lyft is available at the Cleveland Airport for transportation back to Oberlin.  Additionally, you can rent cars through Enterprise, but please be sure to read the requirements about foreign and international drivers' licenses.

Shipping packages

If you’d like to ship items to Oberlin in advance of your arrival in August, you may send them to yourself at the address below. Please do not ship packages for arrival before August 15. You will be responsible for verifying delivery and retrieving your packages from the college’s stockroom.

First name Last name
℅ Blanche Villar
Oberlin College
173 W. Lorain St.
Oberlin, OH 44074

After Your Arrival in Oberlin 

Once you arrive in Oberlin, there are many things you need to do to make your transition to the college and community as seamless as possible. The city of Oberlin has many businesses and services to support your time here as a member of the community. The college also has a number of academic, professional, and social resources available to you.

Finances and Banking

The college will deposit your stipend directly into a local bank account (see the next section) each payday. You will need to sign and submit a time card each pay period in order to process that payment. Your first paycheck may take slightly longer to process, so we suggest that you bring some money with you in case you need something. About $300 should be more than enough. (Note: Bring U.S. dollars! There are no banks in Oberlin that can convert international currencies without much prior planning.) Your meal plan and housing charges are covered by the college.


Having a bank account is one of the first things you should do once you get to Oberlin. Bring your passport and DS-2019 to a local bank to open an account. Representatives from local banks are also on campus during the new student orientation.

Getting a cell phone

Having a phone number is really important in the United States. Generally speaking, it is necessary for purposes such as opening a bank account. A Verizon Wireless store and a Walmart are just a short drive (or longer bike ride) south of downtown Oberlin. Walmart is a good option for purchasing a “pay-as-you-go” type of phone and phone cards. If you want to bring your own unlocked cell phone, consider getting your phone number with another company, as Verizon does not sell SIM Cards without first getting a new Verizon cell phone. You could also purchase an unlocked cell phone online and have it shipped to your campus mailbox. Many international guests have decided to bring their own phone and have a SIM card delivered to campus through a service such as

Making travel plans during the year

During the academic year you will have some opportunities to travel around to other places in the United States. Fall break (Saturday, October 20 to Sunday, October 28) and spring break (Saturday, March 23 to Sunday, March 31) are always a great time to visit other states. Both breaks are always exciting, but make sure your breaks don’t make you come back to Oberlin even more tired! Weekends are also a good opportunity to visit places, depending on your workload and the events at your program house. It is good to gather together with the other FLTAs and PAs and plan day trips to places like Cleveland, Amish County, Toledo, or even Niagara Falls. Make sure you learn how to validate your driver’s license (and perhaps also bring an international driver’s license) if you would like to rent a car to travel. You can also use the college’s car-sharing program. Refer to the car-sharing site. During winter term during the month of January, if you do not have obligations to your department, you’ll have another great chance to travel or even to go back to your country. Make sure to check your visa to see if you have a Multiple or Single-Entry visa. This determines the number of times you may leave and re-enter the United States. Talk to the International Student Resource Center early on about this before you decide to visit another country, as you will also need a signature on your DS-2019.

T-number and ObieID

During your orientation, the college will assign you a personal identification number called a T-number. With this identification you will have access to Banner Self-Service (the college record and registration program) and your Library Record, and it will be needed for any official form or request to the college. Your T-number is as important as your ObieID. Your ID is used to access most online services and housing at Oberlin College.

See details about OCID.

Banner Self-Service

Oberlin uses a web-based student records system for such commonly used services as student record information, financial aid, and student accounts (this system was previously called PRESTO and you may hear others still refer to it by that name). You’ll use Banner to review your personal information such as name and address, and review your semester grades. To access Banner, you will need your ObieID and password. These are confidential, and you should safeguard them while you are a student. You will receive these numbers during the registration process.

Selecting Your Courses

In Oberlin’s online Catalog, you will find all the courses the college offers each semester. Depending on your department and visa status, you will need to enroll in a certain number of courses. We encourage you to choose the courses that most interest you, mindful that the amount of work for those courses can sometimes be heavy. For that reason, before registering, it would be good to email the professor teaching that class to ask for the syllabus, additional information, and let them know about your status as a FLPA/TA. Hsiu-Chuang Deppman, along with your department chairs can also help make introductions with faculty if necessary. In order to have a well-organized schedule of classes you should talk to your FiR and the chair of your department regarding your schedule of work. It is important to consider all of your work requirements while making decisions about your class load and schedule to avoid conflicts and overbooking yourself.


Your registration process will be different from the rest of the students. You will need to fill a special form that must be signed by the professor whose course you want to take. Before you register you must ask for permission from your professors to enroll in the course, as the regular students have preference in the registration process. You will receive more information on the registration process during orientation, and can contact the Registrar’s Office directly with specific questions.

Departmental program assignments

Once your department assigns you your duties, you will meet with faculty members with whom you will work in order to clarify expectations and share ideas. Your faculty supervisors will let you know which role you will have in the program and how they expect you to help the students. It is important to do this at the beginning of each semester, as some assignments may change from one semester to the next.

Work area

The college will provide you with a workspace in the CILC that you will share with other Program Assistants. The CILC serves as a space to meet with fellow PAs, print documents, create publicity materials, and meet with students one-on-one or in small groups.

Language Tables

You are expected to attend your language table at Stevenson Dining Hall (and at other locations as determined by the different language departments) as part of your job. Your faculty in residence (FiR) will let you know how many times a week you must attend and how best to encourage language development in that setting. The world language tables are an important part of your program and are often required for students in language courses. You will share that space with other faculty members who are also expected to attend and participate.

Winter Term

Oberlin's winter term enables students to pursue academic interests outside of Oberlin’s regular course offerings. During the month of January, students complete individual or group projects of their choice, either on or off campus. Depending on your department, some of you will need to be in residence in Oberlin during that period. Others will use that time to travel abroad or within the United States. Please talk to your department regarding winter term and to your FiR about your duties.

If you plan to leave the country during this time, please check your visa status and talk to your FiR or department chair and the ISRC before booking your flight.

Working with the Faculty in Residence (FiR)

Your FiR is the person with whom you will work most closely during your time in Oberlin. This faculty member lives in the program house and will coordinate your work there. It is important to remember that many of the events taking place in the program houses occur during the evening and on weekends. Your FiR will assist you as well in your transition to the United States. You will find that the faculty in residence are, along with other PAs, your most valuable resource in Oberlin.  For world languages that do not have FiRs, you will coordinate with your language supervisor and department chair.

Working with the Resident Assistant (RA) and Residence Life (ResLife)

Your Resident Assistant (RA) will be a student at the college who also works for the Office of Residence Life (ResLife). They are the representatives of this campus office that provides programming, services, and facilities to your new house. ResLife has a list of rules that must be followed in both residence halls and Program Houses.

Working with faculty members

The faculty members of your department are an important part of your experience in Oberlin and will definitely shape your experience here. Do not hesitate to talk to them if you have any questions about which courses to take, as you might have some faculty members whose interests match yours.

Your Living Space

TAs live in apartments and PAs live in one of the many program houses on campus. You will have a single room, but you will share bathroom and shower facilities with other TAs or students. The college provides furniture for each room. You will be provided with a set of sheets and a pillow when you arrive. Review this list of items that are are not permitted in your room.

Common spaces

Each program house has several common spaces such as the bathroom, a TV/library room and a lounge. These important spaces in the program houses are at the same time private and public spaces. As part of the languages programs the common spaces in the houses are used for events and gatherings. For that reason it is important to keep those spaces clean and safe.

Key-card access

You will use your ObieID to access your dorm and also your room. Your ID also is used in the dining halls. It is important, so please take care of it! If you lose it you will have to pay for a replacement. If you forget it in your room, you will have to call Safety & Security. An officer will let you back into your room, but you will be charged $10 for every time you lock yourself out of your room.  TAs will have regular key access to their apartments and ObieID card access to the dining halls and the program houses where they will hold their events.

Winter shutdown:

Program Houses will be closed between the end of the first semester and the beginning of winter term, December 20 to January 2. During those days you will need to vacate your rooms. We encourage you to take this opportunity to travel to warmer places! If you find yourself unable to leave campus, contact Jessica Greenfield to assist you in making alternate arrangements.

Internet and phone service

Wireless internet access (WiFi) is available in most areas of campus. Landline room phones are available on request. Talk to ResLife to get one.

Regular mail delivery

You will be assigned a mailbox in the mail room at Wilder Hall. You will be able to open your mailbox with the three-number combination that the college will provide during your orientation. The system used by the mail delivery at Oberlin College is pretty simple: If you get regular mail, you will find it inside of your mailbox; if you get a package or something larger, you will find a blue notification form that you will have to fill and present, always with your ID, at the mail room window.See more information on the Student Mail Room web page.


As a Foreign Language Teaching or Program Assistant at Oberlin you are entitled to a meal plan that includes “flex points” that can be used at the DeCafe in Wilder, Azariah’s, the Science Center Cart, or any of the dining halls. These flex points are quite valuable, as they allow you to get food from places other than the regular dining halls. These places sell fruit, snacks, sandwiches and smoothies. They are very convenient if you are busy and going to one of the dining halls takes too much time.

(No) Smoking

Oberlin is a tobacco-free campus. The use of all tobacco products by students, staff, faculty, and visitors is prohibited in all buildings, facilities, properties, and vehicles owned or operated by the college; on all campus grounds, including at outdoor athletic events and programs held on college property; in all campus facilities or on campus grounds being used for private events.

At The Year’s End

Much like the preparation required at the start of the academic year, you’ll need to begin preparing to conclude your time at Oberlin. Be sure to attend Commencement. As FLTAs and FLPAs, you are welcome to attend the ceremony and related events. Follow these reminders to help end your year here in a positive way.


By February 1, you will receive your W-2 earnings statement from Oberlin College via campus mail and or OberView. Make sure that you do not throw this document away. Your federal, state, and local taxes can be prepared in town at your expense. If you pay for a local tax preparer to file your taxes, be sure they are familiar with foreign nationals and your visa status. The International Student Resource Center also provides software that can file your federal taxes at no cost to you. You may also prepare your taxes yourself. These must be filed by April 15. You will also need to retain all tax documents for next year’s filing.

Check-out procedure

FLPAs may stay in their rooms until no later than 10 a.m. on the morning after Commencement. You will receive a checkout packet of forms from the college; many of these must be signed and returned to Human Resources before you leave campus. FLTAs will have a comparable checkout system for vacating their apartments.