The Oberlin Stories Project

On living on SciFi Hall

Julie Lopresto ’12

“...when I step out my door, there will be a friendly face around the corner. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had there, and have found what I’m proud to call my home at Oberlin.”

SciFi residents gather around a hoard of toy laser guns and light sabers spread out on a pool table

Let me make it known now so that there is no confusion later: I am a self-identified nerd. A dork. A lifelong dweeb. I’ve been to comic conventions. I’ve dressed up for Harry Potter movies. I’ve tried to change, but it’s impossible; if there’s a nerd gene, I have it, and it’s not going away.

So I suppose that it makes sense that I ended up surrounded by people that understand my Star Wars references—the proud nerds of Oberlin College. The ones who can out-geek the students at this geeky school.

When I was a lowly incoming freshman, I spent ages deliberating where I should live for my first semester at Oberlin. I considered Barnard and First Year Experience Housing, but nothing seemed right. After a long phone call with a friend who was a current student at Oberlin, I decided that the best thing to do would be to throw myself in with the lot and request traditional housing. I’d have the first year to find out where I belonged.

Before I sent in my Big Book of Forms, something on the 2012 Facebook group caught my eye: open spots on SciFi/Fantasy Hall.

Despite the temptation, I decided to go with my instinct and live in a traditional dorm. I wound up in Langston, better known as North, the X-shaped dorm in which SciFi Hall is located. I’ve never regretted not living on Hall—as we call it—my first year. I wouldn’t do anything about my first year at Oberlin differently. But I feel as if in some ways I was fated to live on Hall. My first year—and even my time as a prospective student—my path was constantly crossed by members of Hall or their antics.

By the time that I began spending time there in earnest, during my first winter term on campus, I already knew many of the members, but it was the environment that made me feel at home—a lounge filled with books and computers; a table so covered with games and Lego (and a misplaced horseshoe crab shell) that it was impossible to use. This place was clearly lived in, unlike the empty student lounges on my floor.

Most of my best memories of Oberlin involve Hall in some way: nerf battles in basements; raids on other theme halls; our endlessly entertaining Fourth Meal adventures; participating in an effort to break the college radio station’s record for longest show—a story for another day; late night movie showings in our lounge, complete with favorite lines shouted back at the screen; the simple pleasure of being guaranteed that, when I step out my door, there will be a friendly face around the corner. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had there, and have found what I’m proud to call my home at Oberlin.

Every year, SciFi Hall has become a bigger part of my life. My first year, I was just a visitor on Hall, but I never felt like an outsider. Hall members always made me feel included, encouraging me to come back, treating me as an honorary member. My second year, I lived there for the first time. My third year, I decided to give back to Hall as much as I could by becoming one of the hall leaders. I began working with our Residential Director on keeping Hall running as smoothly as possible. I’m now approaching my last year at Oberlin, in which I’ll be the RA of the theme hall that I owe so much to. I spent much of the summer talking with incoming first years, encouraging to live with us, or at least visit us like I once did. Meeting these first years is going to be amazing; I already feel like I know some of them—or, at least, we’ve found common ground in the things we nerd about. That’s one of the best things about SciFi Hall: After years of reading comics or watching cult movies you thought no one else loved, you finally find a group of people who share your love, or at least understand it. It’s kind of like coming home.

I’m so glad that Oberlin allows communities like SciFi Hall to exist. Theme halls like mine—and like Classics Hall, Transfer Hall, and the new Do-It-Yourself Hall--are wonderful resources. Small, tight-knit communities within larger, traditional dorms, theme halls are able to foster their own traditions and easily share them with members of the larger Oberlin population. We chartered a bus trip for Oberlin students to go see Neil Gaiman in Cleveland and residents have taught ExCos on subjects as diverse as the Pokemon Trading Card Game and the art of genre fiction writing (I taught that one!). This coming year is full of equally big plans.

SciFi Hall has so much to share with both its residents and the rest of the Oberlin community. In my time there, I’ve experienced so much that I wouldn’t be able to have taken part in had I not been part of Hall. I hope that in my time as RA, I’m able to give back as much as I’ve learned and experienced in the past three years.