The Oberlin Stories Project

On her Oberlin experience

Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97

“At Oberlin... I could design my own path. And I did just that, becoming more brave and adaptable with each new adventure. Being a student here makes you acutely aware of your own unlimited potential.”

Tanya holds up her 1990s-era Oberlin ID card.

When I first came to Oberlin as a freshman in the fall of 1993, I was full of excitement, fear, and dreams. I had chosen Oberlin because no other campus had so many people I wanted to meet, so many classes I wanted to take, and so many things I wanted to explore. Perhaps most importantly, I just loved the openness of the place.

At Oberlin I could play sports, take classes in any department, sing in an a cappella group, eat in a co-op, teach an exco... I could design my own path. And I did just that, becoming more brave and adaptable with each new adventure.

Being a student here makes you acutely aware of your own unlimited potential. I was a history major, but I never had any intention of going on to graduate school for further study in history. I just loved the foundation and world view that the study of history gave me, and knew that an education like this would empower any career choice I might make.

Towards the end of my time at Oberlin, I met a guy. We graduated and moved from Oberlin to Oakland, then from Oakland to Boston. We got married, had kids. Over the years, I tried a variety of different jobs, but I always seemed to return to photography - my true passion. Eventually, I figured out that I should just make a career out of doing what I love. (Here I was, designing my own path again.) Using the skills I learned at Oberlin - artistic and entrepreneurial alike - I started my own photography business, and now, hundreds of clients later, I have no regrets.

When we lived in Boston, my husband would tease me about planning our retirement in Oberlin. Being a life-long city girl, I didn’t find this particularly funny. While I had loved my four years in Oberlin, I just didn’t think the town would hold much for me as a non-student.

All of this changed when we returned for our 10th reunion. We were simply blown away by how beautiful the town was, and how it could really provide us with everything we were looking for in our lives. Oberlin is affordable, there are tons of outdoor spaces, events, and concerts, and people walk or ride their bikes everywhere. Now that we had a family, Oberlin could offer more to us than we ever could have imagined in our student days.

And so, when my husband saw a post for his dream job at the College and asked me if I would consider moving back, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly.

We have been back in Oberlin for a little over six months, and I don’t regret our decision for a minute. I’ve been able to do all the things I wished I had had more time for when I was a student: visiting the Allen Memorial Art Museum, attending concerts, plays, operas and lectures, getting to know the town and its people. The restaurant scene has vastly improved since we were students, and we love shopping in downtown Oberlin and supporting the local businesses here. As my husband likes to say, “if you can’t find it in Oberlin, you probably don’t really need it.”

And just last week, I signed the paperwork for a beautiful photography studio in the heart of downtown Oberlin, filled with natural light and views of Tappan Sqaure. Soon it will have my name on the door. I’m not sure this would have been possible in any other town.

But to me, that is what Oberlin has always meant: possibility.