An Interview On
Oberlin College and Conservatory

Background

Interview Date:

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: East Asian
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual/Pansexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private high school outside of Los Angeles, CA with a graduating class of about 300 students. There was a strong culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Undeclared
Extracurricular Activities: Member of the Asian American Alliance and the Sexual Information Center.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Yes, specifically the Asian American Alliance. I don’t have an official position, but it was good for me to connect with similar students on campus because I wasn’t involved in a club like this in high school. Joining a club is a great way to make friends and bond over common experiences and interests.

Academic Experience

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
In comparison to where I went to high school, it’s a much more collaborative environment. For people coming from different backgrounds, I wouldn’t blame them if they thought it was more academically rigorous. The professors are good about having open office hours and answering questions, and [I’ve heard that] at larger schools all outside help goes to TA’s where you can’t even talk to the professors. I think people work in groups somewhat, and, as a smaller school, it’s easier to get to know people and collaborate outside of class.

What is your favorite class you’ve taken at Oberlin?
My favorite class was Introduction to Neuroscience, with the accompanying lab course. The labs were really cool, especially because Oberlin isn’t seen as a STEM-oriented school. [The school is well known for its music program. Oberlin’s Conservatory of Music is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the country.]

What is your least favorite class you’ve taken at Oberlin?
My least favorite class was Introduction to Psychology. Introduction classes seem to be more difficult because they try and weed out the people who aren’t majoring in the subject. It was a big lecture-style classroom, with hundreds of kids in the class. I wasn’t used to this teaching environment where the teacher didn’t know me, and there isn’t that personal interaction. I did not do very well in that class. [78% of classes have fewer than 20 students.]

Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I know that Oberlin has a notoriously liberal mindset, which often leads to the classroom. I haven’t taken a lot of classes that necessarily call for political discussion, but I’ve heard from others that people will say something ignorant and classmates will call them out in an informative way.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: South Hall with two roommates

How was transitioning from Los Angeles to Oberlin, OH?
The biggest change was the weather. While adjusting to having less sunlight in the winter, I got paler. This was a significant change for me because I didn’t grow up having to wear 5 layers to class every day. Also, the way the town operates is different. In LA I drove or took Ubers everywhere, while in Oberlin everything is in walking distance.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel very safe walking around Oberlin, in the town, and on campus. There have been a few instances in the city with other students that faced racial aggressions from white townspeople.

What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Lupitas Mexican Cuisine in Oberlin, with $5 Margaritas every Tuesday.

What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Driving into Cleveland is fun, we are about 45 minutes away. I’ve been to a concert and like to accompany my friends on random trips to experience different cities like Cleveland.

Pros and Cons of being in Oberlin, OH?
Pros:
1) It’s really a college town. [The town] is focused on the school itself, even the local restaurants.
2) I like that it’s a small campus and town so you run into people walking down the street, making it easy to stay in touch with your friends.
3) There are no distractions, when I went to school in LA there was always something to do. But in Oberlin, it’s cold and makes me want to go to the library.

Cons:
1) The weather, I was not prepared for snow.
2) Having a very liberal college in the middle of a conservative county can be weird at times. There is definitely a little bit of tension in this regard.
3) For me, coming from a big city, Oberlin can feel like a little snow globe in a way. It’s very flat and feels like a bubble.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
We don’t have Greek Life so we don’t have big house parties. We have a lot of people interested in music and in student bands, making the music scene really big. Pretty much every week there is a house show going on in someone’s basement or living room. It gets [rowdy], and maybe twice a year we’ll get a bigger name performer that comes to the school like Metro Boomin. It’s not going to be any crazy nightlife like the larger schools have.

Who else hosts parties?
After 6 semesters living on campus, you can move off-campus where the parties and music shows are hosted by the upperclassman.

What nights of the week do you regularly do things?
I would say Friday and Saturday mostly. Every Wednesday student committees have an event through one of the school’s venues. These main events are in ‘Sco, where bands and DJs will come.

How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
Sometimes I do wish I went to a school with more of a party and social scene. There are nights in the dorm sharing beers where I wish people were hosting something. I’m also grateful I’m not getting blackout every night. It’s tame, but in a good way and people generally stay safe.

What have been some of your favorite times at Oberlin?
I really like the bigger events where lots of students from all walks of life come out. Generally, there is a split between the athletes and art kids, but if there was a big show going on everyone’s going to show up no matter what. There was a barbeque hosted by the Multicultural Resource Center welcoming students of color back to campus. There were performances of student groups and lots of food.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I met my current friends by joining a GroupMe for accepted students before coming my freshman year. It came down to having similar interests and sharing music taste.

How would you describe the social scene at Oberlin?
The experience is definitely different than high school. Social capital seems to be based on how involved you are on campus, whether it’s organizations, meeting people, or putting yourself out there. There is some political social capital, and the more well-known people on campus are actively giving back or speaking up about things. The athletes typically stick to themselves.

Has being a person who identifies as LGBT influenced your social life?
The ‘Sco puts on an event called Queer Beer, where they serve drinks to people over 21, and play songs made by LGBTQ artists. It’s an open space where people can get drunk and dance together. I’ve also heard that students participate in drag performances, including the annual Drag Ball.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
In terms of race and ethnicity, I find Oberlin more divided compared to LA. [Oberlin has a 62% White student body.] I think this [divide] happens because students find, and stick to, people similar to them. I think it could be better personally, coming from my point of view as a mixed race.

How strong is the Asian community on campus?
It’s pretty strong. In the Asian American Alliance, we welcome Asians of all ethnicities. Asian-Americans and International Asians don’t mingle that much, but we do have events on campus meant to collaborate with these other Asian, Korean, and Chinese groups. There are lots of cultures on campus for students to find their niche.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Oberlin before entering as a freshman?
I would’ve wanted to know just how big music is on campus, not that it’s a bad thing. I didn’t understand how much music influences the campus culture, and I’m not a musical person myself. The majority of my friends are involved in music in one way or another. It’s really cool that there is always music being played somewhere on campus.

What is something that a prospective LGBTQ student may want to know that we haven’t touched on yet?
Oberlin has the most welcoming environment I’ve been in, having a strong base of LGBTQ students. In high school, there was a GSA club on campus and there was always one kid who comes out and people talk about them, but here it’s such an open and welcoming environment in terms of educating people about gender and sexual identity.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
On my tour they showed us the newer buildings, but there are some buildings that have been around forever such as the dorms or arts buildings. There is a lot of character in some of the older buildings even if they are a little run down. There is also a cool art museum in the town.

Reasons to attend Oberlin College:
1) I like that it’s a socially progressive atmosphere where we are able to have open discussions about politics and leftist views. You will be surrounded by people who share those same views. It’s been a learning experience to see different point of views which helped me develop my own political views, especially coming from a conservative household.
2) Being surrounded by music all the time and having friends who can do music is really cool. There are always shows going on around campus.
3) The students are very passionate about being proud of their identity, whatever it is which is really uplifting.

Reasons to not attend Oberlin College:
1) It’s a small-town environment which may not be for everyone. Between Oberlin and Cleveland, it seems like it’s all cornfields.
2) Some people don’t like the political aspect because it could be overwhelming. People are very passionate about politics, [specifically] liberal politics.
3) The weather has a way bigger impact on your college experience than I thought it would. [Oberlin tends to be very cold, being located in Ohio]

Notice: Oberlin College and Conservatory is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Oberlin College and Conservatory.

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