There’s No Place Like Oberlin

Aidan Apel, Contributing Writer

Campus is abuzz with discussion of return on investment, tuition increases, transparency and now, inter-departmental murder plots. What’s happening here? Oberlin students have plenty to complain about these days. But now that the sun is coming out and 25 percent of us are about to leave this place forever, I find that I don’t want to spend my remaining time complaining. I would rather spend the remaining time being happy and reflecting on the relationship I want with Oberlin after graduation. For all seniors, it’s time to look back on our Oberlin experience and evaluate whether it was all worth it. Was this education a successful endeavor? I think it has been.

Defining success is a deeply personal calculation, but the loose standard I use is this: look back on a decision and don’t wish you had done something else. When I’m at Oberlin, there isn’t anywhere else I want to be. If I could go back in time, I would still choose to come to Oberlin. Sure, there are things I would change around the edges — professors I would have avoided, activities I would have picked up earlier and so on. And yes, there are plenty of things I would change about Oberlin if I could. But on the whole, I do not regret my decision to come here. Not in the slightest.

Most importantly, Oberlin has shaped me — and I think all of us — to be mentally active. We are all reading something new, exploring a new theory or struggling with a new problem. Even time spent relaxing is time spent thinking. We find ourselves talking in groups late into the night about social issues, books and politics.

There is ceaseless mental energy on this campus. Oberlin brings together brilliant minds. We all have been in awe of someone else here due to their musical ability, performances, contributions to class discussion, analyses of arguments, writing or personality. You name it. To put that in perspective, we live in a country where 25 percent of Americans did not read a single book last year. Yet we live in an environment where students read multiple books per week.

Oberlin encourages an atmosphere of achievement for everyone. Anyone can be an athlete without prejudice — think of how rare that is. Students are pushed to their maximum capacities, putting on a show and taking four classes and playing in a band and tutoring others on top of a double major and a job. Again, this is so rare. Think of all the party schools where students spend their weeks tailgating and weekends at nightclubs. Contrast that to how you spend your time. We have an environment that lauds quirkiness, conspicuousness, equality, novelty and unorthodox thinking. We are a campus that supports one another.

We have, according to U.S. News & World Report, the third-best undergraduate faculty in the nation. We have all had professors who have impressed us and shaped us from high school seniors into conscientious adults. Obies go on to change the world. And that isn’t a coincidence, it’s a result of the fantastic education we receive.

As we all work for a school that is more accessible, inclusive, sustainable, affordable and united, we cannot forget that we are in a very special place. We are all incredibly privileged to be here. For any of its shortcomings, Oberlin College has shaped us for the better. I find that’s worth applauding.