Last April, I visited Oberlin for the "All Roads Lead to Oberlin" accepted students weekend with my step-mom, Miriam. During our visit, we met with Oberlin senior Hannah Klein, our family friend who was busy putting the finishing touches on her studio art thesis exhibition--an awe-inspiring, multimedia piece on the Holocaust and other human tragedies. She brought us on a personal tour of her exhibition the day before it opened--a very special treat indeed. We were all moved to tears, and it was the icing on the cake of what was already an immensely enjoyable visit.
After our visit, Hannah proactively sent me a thorough email that touched on everything we had spoken about during our visit, including my interest in journalism, economics, Hillel, and oil painting. At the end of her email, she instructed me to convey any further questions I have about Oberlin, and said that she would be happy to answer them.
Today, I am going to answer the questions that April 2012 Ben asked Hannah about Oberlin.
1. "I think that, for me, a freshman dorm will be the best option for my first year. I am interested in potentially living in Kahn, but some of the students I met on my visit said that it was not very 'social.' Is this true? And do the cons related to a dampened social life outweigh the benefits of the nicer dorm rooms and other amenities that come with it being a new and environmentally friendly dorm?" - Ben Reid, April 2012.
As I have clarified in this post, I live in Dascomb and could not be happier with the social life it provides for me. I have many friends on all three floors, and Harkness is right across the street if I am looking for a laid-back co-op atmosphere. However, I do have many friends who live in Kahn, and I spend a lot of time there as well. In my biased opinion, Kahn does have a more "quiet" feel than does Dascomb, and especially Barrows. I suspect this may be a result of its more out-of-the-way location, or its layout of wide halls and tall ceilings. My friend who lives in Kahn once said that, while Talcott (an upperclassman dorm) is "castle nice," Kahn is "airport nice," in that it feels much more sterile than, say, Barrows. Nonetheless, my friends who live in Kahn also have many friends in their halls. In the end, the community in your dorm is largely dependent on the people you live with, not the building you live in.
The view from my window: As you can see, Talcott is "castle nice."
Peters is another building on campus that may be deemed "castle nice." I took this photo last April, when I visited for All Roads.
As you can read more about in that post that I linked to above, I would choose Dascomb, just because it is simply more convenient to live in than either of the other freshman dorms, due to its unbeatable location and its dining hall on the first floor. My conclusion is this: choose Dascomb--not because it necessarily will provide more social opportunities than the other freshman dorms (this is ultimately subjective and unpredictable), but because, at the very least, you will be able to attend fourth meal in pajamas and flip-flops every day. That's why I love living there!
2. "Do you know of any especially great or popular professors in the Econ, Bio, or Neuroscience departments?"
Well, the only class I have taken in any of these departments thus far has been Economics 101 with Jenny Hawkins, or "Doc Hawk" as she calls herself. She's very kind and always makes sure that you understand all the course material.
As far as biology goes, I only really know Yolanda Cruz, because she happens to be my academic advisor. She teaches Biology 100, the bane of many of my pre-med friends' existences last semester, and from what I hear she is a lively, enthusiastic, funny and knowledgeable professor. Princeton Review seems to agree, as she was recently ranked one of the 300 best professors in America! If you plan to be a biology major, pursue a major that requires intro to Bio, or follow the pre-med track, you will probably take a course with Yolanda Cruz. Even if it kills your GPA, you'll be glad you took it!
Sorry past-Ben, I unfortunately have yet to take a neuroscience class, so I cannot be of help for your last question!
3. "Are there any courses that were particularly memorable that you have taken or heard of, and that you would recommend taking?"
Well, I've only taken four. However, I can certainly make recommendations, because they were all enjoyable courses. To prevent this post from becoming mind-numbingly long, I will link to my previous post about the courses I took last semester.
I worry that this post needs more photos, so here's a picture of my friend Mimi petting a horse in Wilder Bowl.
4. "As a senior in high school, I hear many people say 'I wish someone had told me ______ when I was a freshman' or 'I wish I had joined _______ club' etc. Is there anything you wish you had known at the start of freshman year, or that you wish you did in your years at Oberlin? For example, 'I wish I lived in J-House my freshman year,' or 'I shouldn't have taken such hard classes my first semester.'"
One regret I do have is not taking an ExCo. After talking to my friends who took various ExCo's last semester--from "Zen Gardening" to "SexCo" to "Taiko"--I realize that I definitely want to take advantage of our multitudinous ExCo offerings in future semesters.
I can only answer this question in context my first semester, and to be honest, I don't know that I really have many regrets from last semester. Things went pretty smoothly, and I am fortunate to say that I have had a relatively easy transition to college life. In any event, I will give you some advice that I found highly useful during my first semester:
Branch out: Be friends with your roommate and your hallmates, but try to meet other people through activities and clubs as well, so that you can meet others who share your interests. It is relatively easy to meet people with interests similar to yours in clubs and extracurricular activities. For example, through Hillel I was able to make new friends and meet new people who have come from similar backgrounds as I do.
Take advantage of your liberal arts education! Take classes that are all over the academic map; don't come to Oberlin and then enroll in three math classes and a physics class your first semester. I enrolled in courses that spanned the social sciences, hard sciences, and humanities and I don't regret it at all. Even if you take classes that do not apply to your prospective major, it makes you a more well-rounded person to take them anyway. If you are considering attending a place like Oberlin, you probably already know this.
To top off my answer to this question, I will link to my friend Dara's post about what she learned in her first semester at Oberlin.