“Old Barrows, what’s Old Barrows?” I sat at the computer, Google Maps pulled up and looked at the directions for the walk to my new co-op. One mile, a 15 minute walk, separated my dorm, North, from my assigned co-op. I groaned. Had I made a mistake? As a new student, I knew nothing of Old Barrows. I chose to dive in headfirst and found a warm and welcoming community, one that came to mean so much to me during my first year at Oberlin.
Old Barrows, or Old B as it is lovingly known, is located at the southern end of campus in a beautiful, aging house that looks like something torn from the heart of a southern plantation. After walking up what could be called a hill in northeastern Ohio, visitors who make the trek to Old B are greeted by tall white columns and warm red brick.
I knew early on that I loved being a member of Old B. When I had to miss a meal due to a scheduling conflict I would glance at my watch and sigh, knowing that a line was probably being formed and I was not going to be there. I became fairly vocal about my love for Old B—there wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t try to entice a friend to join me for dinner with promises of apple crisp or bacon—but it took some time for me to understand what made it such a wonderful place for me.
While it is easy to say that Old B is great because it has great food, the food is just a very small part of what makes Old B great. My attachment to Old B came more from the comfort it gave me. From the first day I walked through Old B’s door, I was met with smiling faces. Within this big old house where we all gathered twice a day there was a community, a group of people who had something in common that was bigger than themselves, and within this community our job was to take care of each other. For some this simply meant making sure everyone left with a full stomach and for others it was about being around friends. Whatever my fellow co-opers intentions were, I felt that I was part of a group of people who would look after me just as I wanted to look out for them.
After only a semester in Old B I was elected Dining Loose Ends Coordinator (also known as a DLEC). Essentially, a DLEC’s job is to facilitate discussions and take care of anything that isn’t anyone else’s job. This generally involves lots of e-mails, answering questions, and making sure the co-op is running smoothly. I was still new and didn’t know how everything worked, yet I was trusted to take on this role. Communities aren’t just a one-way street, and this job allowed me to give back to Old B and hopefully pass on a little bit of the comfort that I had received to other members.
With that in mind, my co-DLEC and I decided to organize an Easter candy hunt. We went to Old B early that day and stuffed every nook and cranny with chocolates, finding some pretty ingenious hiding spots (some of those pieces are still there). As I watched my fellow co-opers dash around the house madly searching for the more than 100 pieces of candy, I saw so much of what I loved about Old B: the co-op filled with laughter and excitement. I realized that what we had done was send a thank you to all those people who had become my friends over the last two semesters, who had fed me kale chips, played croquet with me, listened to me complain on my off days, and welcomed me into this wonderful place.
My experience with Old B is a perfect example of the communities at Oberlin that take care of the students here. While for my own sake I’d like to think my Old B community is special, I don’t think it is uncommon—this is ultimately what makes Oberlin so great. These communities are everywhere and they are a part of what has made my experience so far such a wonderful one. When school gets hard, having a supportive community like Old B can make all the difference. Work could get overwhelming, there could be days where I knew I wasn’t going to be doing anything except going to class and working in the library, but no matter how hectic my schedule got I always left time for lunch and dinner, because I knew that I could put my bag at the door and take a breath, step away from the reading that was just too much or the paper yet to be written. When I walked through those doors I found people to rest with, laugh with, eat with, and most of all, comfort.