Leaving Oberlin: Senior Looks Ahead, Alum Looks Back


The staff of the Review celebrate Ananya Gupta’s birthday in 2019.

Looking Ahead, With Trepidation

Despite more than a year of saying I’m ready to leave and growing excitement for the next phase of my life, I realize that maybe I’m really scared about closing the Oberlin chapter.

I remember contemplating giving myself over completely to senioritis in February. After three and a half years of living through some of the strangest times in recent history, it seemed as though I had earned a back-row seat in class. That was just the beginning of the kinds of entitlement I thought senior spring would afford: relaxed hours in the Oberlin Review office, partying harder on the weekends, saying more and listening less, looser deadlines on class papers, and so much more. To be honest, I wanted all of those things to be true. In my experience, however, the intensity of life in college doesn’t stop just because you’re getting ready to leave. Instead, with every day closer to commencement, I feel each element of my Oberlin life calling me to work harder, to be more present, and to do everything I can before my time here runs out. Maybe, after all this time, I’ve become convinced that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want, to be everything I want. 

The feeling of rushing to make the most of everything has been all-consuming this semester. For all my time at Oberlin spent simply learning, I feel as though I’m leaving with more questions than I entered with. I know more, and simultaneously, I am aware that I know so much less than I need to. Having spent the bulk of my time at Oberlin dedicated to documenting the history of the College and town at the Review, I worry that I’ve spent too much time thinking critically about the complex issues that have pervaded my four years here. Contemplating what my takeaway from this place — which has given me so much and taken just as well — should be is a heavy weight to reconcile with, especially with the added stress of finals.

Luckily, whenever I’ve been confronted with such moments of existential introspection, I’ve turned to one person: my best friend, mentor, confidant, and predecessor at the Review, Ananya Gupta, OC ’20. Here’s hoping her perspective can bring peace to me and other fourth-years facing similar turmoil about their final days in Oberlin. 

Looking Back, With Love

Seven years ago, I landed at Cleveland airport expecting the city of Cleveland and the town of Oberlin to be akin to New York City. That was how little I knew about the United States as a 17-year-old international student about to start orientation at a tiny liberal arts school in rural northeastern Ohio. Woefully unprepared, I was expecting skyscrapers and a city that never sleeps, not knowing I was going to spend four years in a place boasting a population of approximately 8,000 people. 

I’ve now returned to Oberlin for the longest period here since I graduated in 2020, as I prepare to move to the Netherlands in a few weeks to start a new adventure on another continent. Somehow, it felt impossible to prepare myself for this massive change without coming back to the only place in the U.S. I consider home. 

Coming back, especially three years after graduating, feels, unsurprisingly, strange. The things that made me nostalgic don’t anymore. As a 2020 pandemic graduate, I was here in 2021 for my in-person graduation with my peers. At the time, everything came with a twinge of reminiscence — from a walk in Tappan Square to risking death crossing the street at the Science Center. 

I remember feeling all the pressure of making my last moments at Oberlin count in my final year, and then again at my graduation, but now all those memories, though cherished, don’t ache inside me. Most of the bucket list, do-before-you-graduate moments are unfamiliar now. I no longer feel any inclination to visit a classroom, go to one last Long Island Night, or any masochistic urge to grab one last meal at Stevenson Dining Hall. 

However, what sits with me endlessly about my life at Oberlin is a sense of safety and home. It sounds ridiculous for an international person of color to find Ohio safe, and yet, this little piece of it is my safe haven. This is where I know I’ll always find a familiar face, a kind smile, a peaceful walk. Even if I don’t know most of the people, the politics of the day, or why there are construction cranes outside Burton Hall, something about Oberlin seems to know me and embraces me every time I return, and I am so grateful for it.

So, I suppose this is my thank you to this college town that took me in and grew me into a person I can be proud of most days. As I embark on my next adventure, I take comfort in knowing that Oberlin will always be a home for me to return to, and I can hardly wait for when we meet again.