Plumbing the Mysterious Depths of Oberlin Students’ Bags

What’s lurking at the bottom of Oberlin students’ bags? What surprises hide away in brown Carhartt crossbodies? What horrors await in the unplumbed depths of New Yorker totes? 

I took to the Clarence Ward Art Library to solve this mystery because everyone loves being pulled away from a quiet study session to answer questions about their personal belongings. The first victim of my nosiness was College first-year Maya Miller. 

“I have a lot of trash in here,” Miller said in a library-appropriate whisper. They proceeded to pull a half-dozen crumpled wrappers out of their super-stylish, blue tie-dye sling bag. 

“I don’t really keep anything in here because it’s tiny,” Miller said. “My computer fits in here perfectly, though.” 

They told me that the most interesting thing in their bag had tragically gone missing, and they suspected theft.

“I used to have a lip balm in here, but it disappeared,” they said. “It was five years old. I found it when I went home, and I thought, ‘You’re coming with me,’ … It was Nivea, ‘Strawberry Shine’ flavor. It tasted so good. I guess now the most interesting thing in here is my journal,” they continued, sighing. 

They flipped through their journal to show me a page covered in scribbles and seemingly random words. The only things I could make out were “lemon” and “Ben Platt.”

Bag-sharer number two, College second-year Annika Lindholm, had a spacious black backpack but little to fill it with. 

“Right now, I’ve got some Goldfish and … birth control,” she announced after a bit of rummaging. 

Beaming, she held the two objects up, The Lion King style. I asked her if she had anything else in her bag. She said, “Not really.”

“I’m a big online textbook pirater, so my backpack is very empty. But sometimes there’s dance clothes in here because I be dancin’ all the time. I always need to leave room for my hobbies — and room for a snack.”

Lindholm then opened up to me about a troubling experience that considerably strained her relationship with her backpack. 

“Can I tell you something? I spilled chocolate milk on it right before fall break, and I put it through the wash four times, but it still smells like spoiled chocolate milk,” she said. “It makes me really upset every time I get too close to it.”

I asked Lindholm if the smell had been affecting her studies. Thankfully, it hadn’t.

The third bag I investigated was College second-year Bizzy Seay’s bright orange North Face backpack. As we talked, she excitedly dug through the bag’s many pockets to find knickknacks. 

“These are my tiny green scissors,” Seay said, proudly snipping them through the air. “They broke, so I superglued them back together.” 

Seay graciously gave me a tour of her pins, which included a few from her high school orchestra and one from her yearly country dancing camp. Then, she showed me her pens, pencils, and teeny-tiny ruler. I asked her when, if ever, she uses the little ruler.

“Not very often,” Seay said. “I used to be big into making things look perfect — then, I used it a lot. Now, I don’t care as much.” 

College fourth-year  and art library employee Hannah Schorr was my grand-finale interviewee. Right off the bat, Schorr admitted to having some “great stuff” in her bag. She plopped the crossbody down in front of me and began matter-of-factly listing its contents as she scattered them across the library table.

“Laptop, iPad, accessories, Biscoff cookies from my flight, some loose change, my wallet, an empty pill bottle, five lipsticks,” she said.

She looked admiringly at her collection of stuff, arms crossed.

“The five lipsticks are important to note,” she said. “The best one is … well, it depends on what you need. But my favorite shade is Rum Raisin from Revlon.” 

Cool and collected, yet also insistent, Schorr recommended that readers of the Review buy the same shade.

“I want people to buy it — I’ve gotten people to buy it before!” she said, laughing. “I’m a micro-influencer. I wish I was joking, but people always buy the makeup that I recommend.” 

As for why people trust her advice, she told me, “I have a lot of makeup … I’m an expert, duh.”