Moving to college is a huge change in many people’s lives, but it was an even bigger change for me than for most. When I was accepted to Oberlin, I had been homeschooled for nine years - I was timid and uncertain by nature, and lived squarely in the middle of nowhere. My new Oberlin life exposed me to countless new views, found me holding my own in the competitive environment of the conservatory, and gave me the chance to attend more fascinating lectures and events than I ever could have imagined. What’s more, I wound up in the craziest housing assignment a first-year college student could conceive of: the smack-dab middle of Harkness co-op. It was a huge and often confusing shift, but all in all, I couldn’t have hoped for a better experience.
Home had been by turns both idyllic and stifling. I grew up in the forests of northeastern Washington State; we raised goats, chickens, honeybees, and vegetables. Our nearest neighbors lived half a mile away, and communication technology wasn’t my family’s strong suit. (For the first half of my life our only phone was a fantastically outdated radiophone. The machine couldn’t receive calls; it could only send static-laden, virtually inaudible transmissions.) The isolation was both a blessing and a curse; I could study things without much distraction, but I missed the opportunity to discuss what I was learning with others.
Oberlin was a different world, to say the least. There were fellow students! There were professors! All of them had wild new ideas, and were willing to discuss them with me to my heart’s content.
And then there was Harkness. I’d heard most of the rumors, and was more than a little apprehensive. My plan of action was to do my co-op hours as well as I could and then evacuate the premises so that the crazy Harkies could do their thing. Once I actually got to Harkness, though, it was a different story. Before I knew it, I was cooking yummy food, voicing my opinions on co-op committees, and doing any number of crazy spontaneous things with the other Harkies. To my surprise, I was having the time of my life.
Being in the co-op system helped me to grow a lot as a person. I had the opportunity to take on leadership positions for the first time (at the time of this writing, I’m the treasurer of OSCA, the multi-million dollar student-run corporation that manages Oberlin’s co-ops). For someone who hadn’t had a chance to fully develop her communication skills, what better way to catch up than trying to explain Ohio State Food Safety Code to a hundred anti-authoritarian Oberlin students?
Sometimes the best way to get over an issue is to throw yourself into the middle of it and figure out how to make it work for you. This was the story of my first year at Oberlin. Oberlin is a field of such diverse ideas and possibilities. Keep your eyes open; you’re bound to find some that work for you.