In a week, a score of some of the most awesome incoming Oberlin students will descend on Langston Hall (also known as North) to join my former home of two years: the Transfer Hall.
This is not a place that most Obies know about - it's going into its fifth year of existence, but the students there are different from your average purposefully-grouped set of students. They're not new to college; they (hopefully) already know how to do laundry, can avoid burning popcorn (seriously, that "popcorn" button on the microwave is never to be trusted), and have their laptops set up just how they like them. However, they're next to clueless about in which buildings their classes will be and how to navigate registering for those classes. They don't know the best places to get coffee, get work done, or meet up with friends. The transfer hall is this great jumping-off place. It's where new students that have attended another college can come get their bearings together and not feel like they are alone with their war-stories of places that didn't fit them. It throws them in with a bunch of people with whom they have something in common (but who don't necessarily already have established friend groups) before they head off to make more friends in classes and organizations.
I signed up for the transfer hall when I applied to come to Oberlin, and wound up there with a wonderful fellow Virginian roommate who had transferred from a conservatory of music after having a hand injury that kept her from playing her cello. She and I found ourselves on a hall full of fellow transfer students who had come to Oberlin from private colleges, public universities, cities, small towns, and even an Afghan college. Though we came from vastly different backgrounds, we had all found ourselves dissatisfied with our former schools and were hoping that Oberlin was the perfect fit. Over that year many of us grew close, some of us grew apart, and all of us found what we needed in one way or another from this college.
I believed so solidly in the power of the Transfer Hall to support the incoming transfer students who so often are emotionally, intellectually, and/or psychologically bruised that I decided to be the RA of the hall my second (Junior) year. Some of those residents have become my close friends, but I don't doubt that living on the transfer hall and having an RA that had also been through fire helped them adjust to this new promised land. I handpicked and prepared the next RA, and together we chose this year's RA.
So to those students moving into North this Tuesday to live with the delightful Sam, know that you'll be in the capable hands of one who was a refugee before you, and you'll be surrounded by those who genuinely understand how annoying your former roommate was or how isolated you felt were in that huge 500-person class.
Also, odds are I'll be waiting at the check-in desk to welcome you.