Oberlin encourages its students to challenge themselves. Not long ago, I woke up, along with twelve classmates, in the rural, agrarian town of Santa Marta, El Salvador. We were there to assist the townspeople in any way that would significantly impact our and their perspective of the world. My first night in Santa Marta, I awoke shuddering, knowing that I was going to face a whole new reality once I got out of bed. Slowly but surely, my classmates and I learned to live the life of the townspeople. We bathed with buckets of ice-cold mountain water (not as easy as it sounds), spoke the local language, hand-washed our clothes, and cooked local food. By the end of a month we had adjusted to life in the community. Many of my friends and I fell in love with Santa Marta on that trip and continue to remain in touch with the community even from the distant U.S.
Oberlin fosters intellectual challenge. It is the type of challenge that will make you think deeply, hone your critical thinking skills, and most importantly, learn to seek help and cooperation. I often found myself absolutely stumped in biology or math classes. I would turn to my classmates, students that previously took the class, librarians, and even my parents. Despite these efforts at finding help I was sometimes none the wiser. Understanding the subject matter of any class at Oberlin is an undertaking that requires a deliberate purpose of mind. Professors bring you to understand a subject without ever just giving you the answer. They serve as guides, and over the years each students’ intellectual toolkit expands. Oberlin provides its students with just the right amount of push to inspire and stretch the mind. One leaves Oberlin, as I have, a lover of learning.
The Oberlin approach to life and living challenges norms. I grew up mostly on the beautiful yet fairly conservative isle of Jamaica. Attending Oberlin completely tore through my concept of reality! Here I rubbed shoulders with people from Nigeria whose laughter could fill a room with joy, teachers from the Philippines whose knowledge of interesting tidbits could keep a party going for days, people of various sexual orientations, students educating others on sustainable living, “hippies” bent on living life to the fullest, football players with an eye for great literature, and professors and friends always willing to share a laugh. Needless to say, I was in awe. Attending Oberlin has done wonders for me. And, as I move forward, I am confident, that the inspirations garnered at Oberlin will be my foundation to face the challenges of the future.