The Oberlin Stories Project

On exploring new things

Hannah Fuson ’11

“I saw an outing club poster on a bulletin board. Though skeptical, I signed up for the trip, and spent a day hiking around the Appalachian foothills... [and] I never looked back.”

Kayakers on a lake

I came to Oberlin with big dreams; I wanted to become a scientist and continue my studies as a musician. For my first year, I spent hours pouring over my problem sets, studying in the library, and working on a faculty research project. Though I am a student in the college, I auditioned for cello lessons with a faculty member, studied alongside the conservatory students in her studio, and played chamber music. However, something was missing. I could spend all day in the Science Center and practice room, but somehow I hadn’t quite found my community at Oberlin.

The winter term of my sophomore year, I decided to take a month-long course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). I spent the month kayaking, hiking, and diving in Baja, Mexico, and rediscovered my childhood love for the outdoors. Coming back to Oberlin afterward was daunting: where was I going to find the mountains, waves, and wilderness with which I had spent the last month reacquainting myself?

Not long after winter term, I saw an outing club poster on a bulletin board. “What on earth are they going to do in Ohio?” I wondered. Though skeptical, I signed up for the trip, and spent a day hiking around the Appalachian foothills. After meeting other Oberlin students that were excited about the outdoors, I never looked back.

Now I lead and go on numerous trips a year, spending each break climbing, hiking, and paddling in conjunction with the outing club and climbing corps. I took the rock climbing ExCo and am now a supervisor at the climbing wall. I led a trip to Hocking Hills State Park in southern Ohio, where I was able to share a place I used to go as a child with other Obies. Last semester, I took SCUBA classes in Carr Pool to become a certified diver.

My advice? Find what you’re passionate about, both in and out of the classroom. I still love my academics, and my chemistry studies are the reason I’m at Oberlin. I am a researcher, tutor, and TA in the department, and I enjoy working on these demanding endeavors, and I love talking about all of these activities. However, at the end of the day, you’ll find me teaching at the rock wall, rolling a kayak in the pool, or planning my next adventure. While these may not necessarily further my academic résumé, they have been an essential part of my Oberlin experience.