I lived in Harkness as a first year this year and it was the best decision I could have made. People here in Oberlin are, well ... people. The communities in co-ops, first year residential experience (FYRE) dorms, and other dorms rotate and nothing absolute can be said, but we can try and pick at the differences.
You, incoming first-year, may have a most fabulous first year living in a FYRE dorm, but I
think there are some great things to say about living in a co-op as a first year:
- Responsibility. While there are problems, and people will be jerks, the community around living in a co-op is necessarily built through participation, personal accountability, and making sure everyone is doing their jobs. Even the 5-hour co-ops aren't such a time drain, some people even say co-op hours are relaxing! If you're worried about work study jobs and co-op hours, time aid helps reduce the hours you need to work in a co-op.
- Community. Even the biggest living co-op (and the best, dare I say, Harkness, at 64 occupants) is a smaller, more intimate community, in my opinion, than the FYRE dorms. Again, your living space is what you make of it, but it's a lot easier to make close connections in a space where you have the shared interest of being first years in a small space.
- Cost. If you're worried about the finances of attending college (as many are) the co-ops are a cost-effective choice, ( at least for a year). Think about it.
But there's more that I've experienced this year than being a co-oper. I've been a student, a Bonner Scholar, and a friend. From all of that, here's what I can say I've learned in short:
- Never be afraid to try new things, learn as much as you can on your own, and simply hope for the best. Jumping in is, sometimes, the best decision. It's knowing when to go in head first, hand over heart, that's the tough part.
- People are incredible. Along comes a social and emotional complexity that is impossible to figure out in a month, a semester, a year, a lifetime even. Don't be the person you think people will want to be friends with, make friends with the people who want to be your friend.
- You're smarter than you feel, but there's usually someone smarter than you in the room, and it's dangerous (and excessively rude/annoying/ugh) to assume any different.
I don't have anything else (that I'd like to type out, anyway) so here's an end of the year .gif of my friend Jackson Studzinski: