Oh wow. This is a huge question that I love and I’m scared I won’t be able to share everything. But I’m going to try.
First, read this blog post by Patrick Doherty ‘11 entitled with exactly the same question you asked. He talks more about the technical things that makes Oberlin different that you can view on the surface, but I find that there’s even more that makes Oberlin different if you dig deeper.
For me, it comes in two forms:
There is an underlying love for Oberlin that is very apparent when you leave this place and talk about with others who went to school here. This place is a point of connection and yet means so many different things to so many different people, and there is just some unspoken understanding of “You went to Oberlin. I know I can count on you for an interesting conversation, a thoughtful opinion, unbounded creativity, a good story…” And that’s just as possible with someone you have known for a while as with someone you just met.
While you have to learn to make decisions at any college, Oberlin is a place that doesn’t make you sacrifice one interest or passion for another. It is a nourishing environment that may take some creative balancing and scheduling to do what you want to do, but you can. This is apparent in many different forms here — the double degree program, ExCos, the number of students who double or triple major just because they can, the sheer number of clubs and student orgs that take participation and learning to a completely different level.
My old roommate/housemate and current coworker Harris Lapiroff ‘11 also weighed in after we had long discussion about precisely this question a few days ago, before this question even popped into the ask box:
Out of all the schools I visited before choosing Oberlin, I found that Obies were generally much happier (in general, with being here, etc.) than other places I visited. Oberlin was committed to social justice and activism. I saw critical thought and that students executed the ability to ask a good question. Passion was a given, and there was an overwhelming sense of community.
(Any other Obies wanting to chime in about what makes us different, share a post on your Tumblr and tag it with “Oberlin” or post in our ask box and we’ll pop it up here too.)
- Ma’ayan Plaut ‘10, Social Media Coordinator