Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Students Should Consider South Hall Residency Next Semester

I was on a walk one night last spring when I stopped in my tracks in front of South Hall. I gazed up at that public-library-looking-ass building, and it dawned on me: I would live here one day. 

Don’t ask me why I made a whole moment out of it; it was not a very ambitious goal. I moved in last fall. 

The quality of life in South can be a contested issue. Either it’s too far from North Campus, or the smell is off-putting, or the labyrinth like layout is daunting. I am here to tell you not to listen to the naysayers. 

South has character. Unlike the dentist’s office that is Dascomb Hall or the steel tomb of Langston Hall, South has soul. It has its quirks, to be sure. But who among us doesn’t? 

With a little know-how and enough practice, even a novice can become a proficient Souther. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a great place to live and a quintessential Oberlin experience. 

First, the basics: amenities. South is right next door to Clarity, Lord-Saunders Dining Hall, and Harkness House, so whether you’re an AVI Foodsystems baddie or a co-op queen, you’re never more than a two-minute walk from a hot meal. South has more amenities than most dorms, including a fully-equipped gym open 24 hours a day, two dance studios, practice rooms, a piano, pool and ping-pong tables, a balcony, a lovely garden courtyard, a field out back, vending machines, and two kitchens on the second floor. 

But enough brochure talk. What about the vibe? 

We may not be flashing smiles in the halls, nor are we winning Ecolympics anytime soon. But there is a certain solidarity among Southers. An implicit, laid-back respect. Like, whenever I find out someone lives in South, or even used to, I know automatically that they’re a real one. 

Maybe it’s our ability to navigate the labyrinth. Maybe it’s just tribalism. But I’ve lived in big, confusing buildings before without this casual kinship. I think Southers are just generally straight chillers. And I like that.

Sidenote! Don’t let the labyrinth scare you. It doesn’t take long to learn your way around. And then, once you know, you’re in. You’re cool. No one can take that away from you.

It does matter somewhat which room you get. Rooms on the first floor generally get the least privacy, especially those in the front of the building. If you can, get a room on the west wing of the building, as it overlooks a blossoming courtyard. Meanwhile, the east wing of the building overlooks a dumpster and an active loading dock, which, yes, does receive shipments early in the morning. 

I would be remiss not to point out one pattern that surprised me on move-in day. South seems to house an above-average number of gorgeous young men. This is not to say that the women and nonbinary folks in South aren’t also stunning, or that guys on other corners of campus aren’t pulling their weight also. Beauty is subjective and largely frivolous. All I’m saying is, you don’t have to like men to live here, but man, it helps. 

As far as the bathrooms go, it may seem like an odd and inefficient layout. And it is! But it’s not as bad as it seems. Do be careful opening the door because if anybody is at the first sink, you will hit them (apologies, again). It may seem odd to have so many sinks per toilet, but the sinks periodically get clogged. I have been in a situation where only one sink worked, so the entire hallway huddled around one to brush their teeth. Meanwhile, in times of sink surplus, you get to spread out, which is nice. 

In terms of the shower situation, it might be scary at first given the inadequate width of the shower curtains combined with the placement of the paper towel dispenser directly adjacent to the showers. Fear not. I can’t explain how, exactly, but I have never once been peeped on in the South showers. Not even close. I’ve also never seen anyone else. Go figure. Just another sprinkle of that South magic. 

Finally, let’s talk about the South smell. The base scent is body odor. Sweet, salty, and distinctly mammalian. Now, I’ve never minded the human stink, but some people do, and fair enough. Above the BO is a mid-note of tanginess that I believe emanates from the carpet. It’s not bad, just distinct. Top notes of copper or latex occasionally prick the senses. The only smell that bothers me are these dense sickly-sweet clouds that settle throughout the building. Almost like stale fortune cookies.

 I’m pretty sure it’s the deliveries, and possibly nonperishables being stored in the basement. I actually had to move my bed away from the window because at 8 a.m. every morning when the delivery trucks pull up, I would be awakened not by the beeps and clangs but by the stuffy-sweet smell slapping me into consciousness. 

I will say, eventually, you get used to it. Every former Souther I’ve brought back to the building takes a big deep breath on entry and cracks a small, fond smile. I assume I’ll do the same one day.

South is a bit odd. But what good home isn’t? If you haven’t lived here and you’re considering it, give it a shot. And to all my fellow Southers: I may not know your name, but you’re my people. Keep keeping it real. 

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