Why, hello there, future Oberlin residents! Fancy meeting you here! I imagine that a fair number of you reading this now are wrestling with your Big Book of Forms and, among other things, deciding where you want to live next year. (Shoutout to Hannah Gilfix for alerting me to the housing deadline this Wednesday!) For your edification, I am dedicating this post to what was my home until very recently - Dascomb.
How did I get there? Erm... by chance. This time last year, I was graduating high school. Two days later, I was moving on, volunteering in soup kitchens in D.C. for a week, and less than a week after that, I was off backpacking across Europe for a month and a half. Obviously, I had more important things to attend to than that peskily hefty collection of paperwork. I'd just escaped from three years of living in fairly ramshackle dorms (in the only public, fully residential high school in Alabama) and was sure that it could only get better from there on out, so I didn't concern myself overly much with where I was going to live my freshman year of college. It did occur to me that the comparison between high school and college dorms could be interesting, so I considered my options for about ten minutes and then signed up for traditional housing. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. I couldn't have told you what OSCA was if my life depended on it - otherwise I might've tried to get into it - and I hadn't looked at a campus map enough to tell you where any of the dorms were located, much less have a preference in the matter. When I got back from Europe, I found that I had been placed in Dascomb 214, and that was that!
(Incidentally, I hope that most of you are doing a better job of being an almost-Obie than I did, because it makes quite a difference where you live, and when I walk by places like East and think "There but for the grace of God goes Ida Hoequist," I suddenly feel the need to give my past self a swift kick in the rear.)
Of course, I am by no means the only or even the typical Dascomb resident, so in preparation for writing this post, I asked a smattering of fellow Dascombites why they chose to live there - if, indeed, they actively chose it - and found a few common threads. One was, obviously, the fact that it is populated exclusively by freshmen. My roommate, Sarah Francis, said that she thought it would be "kind of scary to come into a situation where you don't know anyone," and that she "didn't want to be in a situation where everybody already knew people and be lonely." This is a pretty valid reason to choose either Dascomb, Barrows, or Kahn (the other freshman dorms), and one that was echoed by almost everyone I asked.
Michael Patterson, a tenor in the Conservatory and my neighbor this past year, said that he had figured that "because we're all freshmen, we all understand we're on square zero now and we're all figuring it out." I would argue that having upperclassmen around who can advise you in your figuring out could be helpful, but Dascomb definitely did have a certain 'we're all in this together' atmosphere at the beginning of the year. Everyone propped their doors open and sat down in the halls to socialize, so that any passersby could easily join in - you never knew if the stranger around the corner might be your best friend in a year! I won't say the socializing wasn't awkward at times, but at least we were all equally awkward together.
That said, it's not impossible to meet people in other dorms. William Passannante was also my neighbor all year, but is such an outgoing guy that we rarely saw him at home. He had this to say on the matter: "I didn't want to be in a dorm that was a giant upperclassman clique - but it turns out I didn't need to live in a freshman dorm to make friends. I wanted to put myself at the center of what I perceived would be the social interaction, and then I didn't need to!" Point being, college can be a whole new social scene - even for you, my introverted brethren! - and while freshman dorms are handy for facilitating lots of bonding, they are not the only way to make friends.
Indeed, not being the extrovert type myself, I found Dascomb to be a tad overwhelming at times. I made good friends among the people on my side of the hall, but there were so many freshman all trying to get to know me at once that I never really made it from the east to the west side of my floor, socially. I couldn't identify half of the people who lived on the second floor of Dascomb if you asked me to, and I only ever ventured to the first and third floors for laundry purposes.
There is also a sizeable downside to living in a building with a few hundred other people who have never lived in a dorm before. I was extremely fortunate to have been placed in a corner room that, along with two other rooms, was relatively isolated (spatially and aurally) from the rest of the hall, but outside of this small, tight-knit domain, I had little control over how shared spaces were used. This irked me. As I've mentioned, I lived at a public high school; in exchange for not having to pay tuition, we were deprived of janitors and made to clean our own dorms and campus (including scrubbing bathrooms, vacuuming offices, and taking everyone's trash out) - much like OSCA residents, but on a campuswide scale. Unfortunately, some high schoolers don't have a whole lot of experience with cleaning up after themselves, not to mention other people, so I spent a lot of time being one of the few people responsible enough to make sure the girls' dorm didn't descend into squalor. Ever since, nothing has gotten under my skin as fast as someone mistreating shared spaces, and living in Dascomb included its fair share of hair clumps in shower drains, clogged toilets, and lounges decorated with dirty dishes nicked from the dining hall. I didn't blame the custodial staff for seeming permanently grouchy.
On a happier note, I saw much fewer stupid parties than I had anticipated. I've heard the opinion expressed by a goodly number of upperclassmen that freshman dorms suck because none of the freshmen know how to party discreetly, nor do they know their limits. Except for one memorable night during which the room above mine apparently hosted a multi-hour game of spin the bottle, I was not plagued by parties at all. I personally don't find myself needing to drink or smoke weed, and this lack of intrusive festivities not only made it easy to feel comfortable with my choices, it also let me slumber in peace! Even when Michael and his roommate held movie-watching get-togethers, they respectfully restricted the noise to a level that didn't interfere with my sleep schedule - something I only learned to appreciate later, during commencement week, when all the upperclassmen commencement workers were housed in Dascomb and that space (which, mind you, is half again as large as most doubles in Dascomb) contained a roomful of rather noisy drunks on a nightly basis.
Another happy thing about Dascomb is the dining hall attached to it. I can't tell you how many times I was grateful not to have to go outside to get food. Granted, Dascomb Dining shuts down on the weekends, forcing us to walk to Stevie for our meals, but it's an incredibly convenient service on the whole. I feel rather spoiled, to be honest - Dascomb was by far the most convenient place I could have lived last year, and not just because of the food. Almost everyone I polled mentioned their appreciation for its central location, and with good reason! It's in between the Conservatory and Wilder Bowl, and thus forms sort of a hub for South Campus. The only classroom buildings not clustered around Wilder Bowl are those concerned with the sciences, which don't particularly interest me, so I never had to walk more than a block to get to my classes. It was lovely.
As I told Hannah Gilfix, choosing a living space is sort of like choosing a college in that all of your options are good (except East; under no circumstances should you voluntarily live in East) - the question is just one of deciding which is the right fit. There are pros and cons about Dascomb, and one man's pros may be another man's cons, so to help you decide on what fits you best, I continue this post in Part Two: Picture Tour!