The Oberlin Stories Project

On visiting Oberlin

Crystal Sheffield ’12

“As I planned my schedule of classes to visit, I found myself tempted by the different departments listed and the variety of classes offered. I barely had time to fit in a conservatory class because I was so engrossed in the college.”

A violinist rehearses

Oberlin was my dream school. I had been planning on going to Oberlin since I began high school; it was always in the back of my mind. At the time, it wasn’t Oberlin College that piqued my interest, it was the Conservatory of Music. As a young, passionate violinist, I knew that acceptance into the conservatory meant that I was pursuing my dream of playing professionally in a symphony. So when I was approached by my high school counselor about a Multicultural Visit Program by which I could travel to Oberlin, I was intrigued. Of course I had already been — twice — but I never turned down an opportunity to visit my first choice college.

I never thought I would be accepted into the program. A free trip to Oberlin for only a select group of minority students sounded too good to be true. I was thrilled when I was chosen, but a little hesitant. Would I get to experience the Conservatory of Music as well as the College of Arts and Sciences? And how would an Arizona native fare during the peak of the harsh Oberlin winter? I quickly bought my first winter coat, packed my suitcase full of hats and scarves, and I was off to Oberlin!

From the moment I stepped off the plane and was picked up by a representative from the Multicultural Resource Center, I felt a warm welcome and solace in my surroundings I hadn’t felt before. All of the students were as excited to be there as I was. We bonded instantly, socializing, singing, and engaging in intellectual and controversial conversations that had been noticeably absent from my educational experience thus far.

As I planned my schedule of classes I wanted to visit the next day, I found myself tempted by the different departments listed and the variety of classes offered. Sociology, anthropology, and African American studies, oh my! I barely had time to fit in a conservatory class because I was so engrossed in the college. Shockingly, I loved all of the classes, particularly those in the African American studies department. I found myself wondering how I was deprived of such a rich, cultural history that I myself belonged to. Who knew that I would not only switch my interests from the conservatory to the college, but I would also fall in love with my future major, all in one day!

You can imagine my parent’s shock when I returned home, fully secure in my decision to apply to Oberlin College early decision. Violin was no longer my passion; rather, Oberlin College was. When I was accepted, I felt like I couldn’t wait to get there and start learning! I owe a huge amount of thanks and gratitude to both the Multicultural Visit Program and the Multicultural Resource Center, without which I would not have found my passions in life.

Now, I am focused on African American studies. I have worked with African American studies professor Caroline Jackson-Smith, doing intense research with her for a recent theater production, Intimate Apparel. This fall, I will be researching with Justin Emeka, professor of African American studies and theater and dance, for his upcoming direction of Macbeth. I am a representative for my department and will be starting my honors thesis on race in Oberlin, an historical perspective of campus program houses, this fall, and I hope to further my knowledge in graduate school. Every once in a while, I ask myself where I would be without Oberlin, and I answer that I would not be in such an exciting and passionate place in my life.