Women in colorful skirts dance in the quad.

On living in a program house

Rose Wesche ’12
“I can’t wait to return to Asia House in the fall. I believe that program houses offer a concentrated version of Oberlin-- fellowship, community, and learning all packed together into single buildings.”

When I was accepted to Oberlin, I felt both thrilled and anxious. Though I was certain Oberlin was the place for me, I was moving from bustling Chicago to a campus of 2,800 students. While I was looking forward to the change of pace, I wanted to be as comfortable as possible in my new home. I am not the type of person who plans every detail of her life, but I obsessed over the tiniest things when it came to my journey to Oberlin. I wanted everything to be perfect, down to my choice of pencil sharpener.

The most important thing to me was my dorm room. My room at school would be the first chance I would have to decorate something for myself. I wanted everything to coordinate. I spent hours shopping for sheets, a desk lamp, even an office supply organizer (which matched my pencil sharpener and my pencils). I found posters that matched my personality and made a statement about me.

Then, I realized that I had yet to find out where I would live.

I wanted to live in a dorm that would, like my posters, say something about who I am.
On my visit to Oberlin, I stayed in Asia House and fell in love with the building’s architecture. Built out of brick and covered with a red and gold tiled roof, the dorm bordered a gorgeous courtyard. Columns were decorated with carvings of people who had been influential to the college. The lounges were huge, Gothic rooms that could have come right out of a movie.

Though the dorm was originally part of a religious seminary, it now served as a program house, allowing students to immerse themselves in Asian cultures and languages. What was more impressive than the architecture was the way Asia House residents from many backgrounds related to each other with so much respect and openness. It reminded me of the friendships I had made in high school. I wanted to live in a community where people supported each other, and where I could learn something about the world. Those are reasons I chose Oberlin, and why I chose Asia House.

Asia House was amazing. My roommate Sophia and I stayed up late at night, laughing together. I would have conversations with my neighbor Chloë through the wall between our rooms. On our first weekend on campus, our RA Jiayu took us bowling. The Asia House community was so friendly; I was amazed at how much they supported each other. If an Asia House resident was performing in a concert, play or recital, the front row was filled with that person’s dorm-mates.

The various talents of Asia House residents were too impressive to ignore, so we decided to have a talent show at the end of the year. We took advantage of the beautiful cherry blossom trees in the building’s courtyard and hung decorations from them. Our fantastic custodian, Dave, and his wife cooked ribs, macaroni and cheese and baked three different kinds of cake. Almost every resident signed up, sharing their different cultures: there was break dance and belly dance, classical violins and harmonica covers of Bob Dylan songs.

Anywhere else, I would have been too timid to showcase a talent, but being surrounded by encouraging friends made me fearless. Jiayu enthusiastically encouraged me to write a play as I was involved with student theater on campus. So, Jiayu and I performed a short skit about the women’s hall of Asia House. I felt fantastic performing it — everyone in the audience was howling with laughter.

I can’t wait to return to Asia House in the fall. I believe that program houses offer a concentrated version of Oberlin — fellowship, community, and learning all packed together into single buildings. The talent show was a wonderful experience that helped me understand how privileged I am to go to Oberlin.

You may also like