by J. Dilla
This one is for all of the incoming first-years who just committed to Oberlin. You’ll soon be inundated with lists of college “essentials” that you “need” from everyone you know—from the college to your mother to YouTubers, and so forth. Closing out my first half of college, I feel it would be somewhat apt for me to offer you a list of my own essentials: things that I have both found useful and that no one told me to bring. I hope to share some of those things with you now.
1. An extra top sheet
Come March or April, a shift in the campus begins to set in the air. The bitterness of winter here makes the oncoming of spring all the much sweeter. And something you will learn about this, my sweet little prospies, is that if the sun is out, Obies will be sunbathing in Wilder Bowl.
If the sun is out and it is 38 degrees, Obies will be sunbathing in Wilder Bowl. If the sun is out and so are the yellowjackets, Obies will be sunbathing in Wilder Bowl. If the sun is out and Paul Revere rides in on horseback warning us of an oncoming British invasion, Obies won’t be able to hear him over the SZA in their earbuds as they sunbathe in Wilder Bowl.
For this, I recommend bringing an extra top sheet for all of your impromptu picnics. It’s both a practical object and a social one. It’ll be light enough to carry with you all day, and big enough to sprawl upon with others as they pause to chat on their walk from Azzies to King. And to sunbathe upon, of course.
2. Wine-bottle opener
This might be the only thing you truly need from this list. A beer bottle or stray Mike’s Hard can be opened with the proper edged surface and a little determination. The task of opening a bottle of wine without the proper tools is much trickier. Small as she might seem, I promise you do not want to be caught without her. Otherwise, you might end up on the floor of a Barrows dorm room, reading a WikiHow article about how glass expands when you heat it by a flame. Save yourself the trouble altogether and toss one of these into your IKEA cart before you come to college.
3. A lighter
On the topic of fire—I don’t smoke, but I am jealous of the bonding moment that happens outside of a party when a smoker needs a lighter, and someone else is able to provide one. I suggest getting one and carrying it on your nights out, so you can wait for the chance to be that savior. If you’re looking for a way to make friends, this is better than keeping an extra umbrella with you on a rainy day. And if you have a really fun one (i.e. Pearl Tolliver Shaw’s lighter collection—see The Grape published 2/17/2023), you might spark a fun conversation about how you picked it up off the Appalachian trail, or are really trying to beat those arson charges from setting Barrows on fire last month.
4. Little Tikes Wagon
I found mine in a trash pile on the side of the road, but if you’re not that lucky, store-bought is fine. I’ve found it most helpful for lugging film equipment from AV to my dorm room, but there are many uses for this little vehicle. You can also:
Carry your friends around in it for a dramatic entrance!
Walk it around campus on a leash and ask pedestrians if they’d like to pet your dog
Tie soup-cans to the back of it and drive with your fellow newlywed into the sunset
Offer a creative daytime transportation alternative to the student shuttle for extra cash
5. Bundt pan
In college, if you are so lucky to have friends, and if those friends have birthdays, you might find yourself in the position of having to bake them a cake. In this case, I recommend that you acquire a Bundt pan. Frosting and decorating an entire cake requires a whole host of tools that are just not feasible in your dorm room: piping bags and piping tips and whisks and bench scrapers and mixing bowls.
Unless you’re into the aesthetic of food looking truly awful, attempting to put together a birthday cake in a dorm kitchen is something that will only lead you to frustration. In comes the Bundt pan. The mighty little Bundt pan takes care of all of that decorating for you. You just take your cake out of the oven and it’s already beautiful and ready to go.
(It can also be used as a mold for a large, adventurous jello shot.)
6. Ear plugs
You can’t always control who’s DJing, but you can control the volume level.
7. Socks, Clothes for the Winter in General
This one is still a work in progress for me. I am fortunate enough to have originated from the glorious negro-heaven that is Atlanta, Georgia, and to have never truly known winter before I came to Oberlin. Coming here, my suitcases were packed with only sundresses and a single winter coat rated for the arctic tundra that my mom bought me a month before move-in. And nothing else in between.
This, I’m learning, was not sufficient. There are a whole host of winter accessories (hats, gloves, scarves, SOCKS) that I barely knew existed, let alone how to wear and layer them on my body—almost two years later and I still don’t know. So, I can’t give much advice about what winter clothing to bring, but I can say that you will need it. Here are some suggestions, judging by what I see people wearing on campus:
Random scraps of fabric that can be tied around your head, making your face look like a bread basket.
A colorful vintage-looking, but surprisingly warm winter coat.
A leather coat with a cheeky embroidered design on the back.
Fingerless gloves, for some reason.
Ill-fitting sweaters that were presumably stolen off of a grandparent’s still-warm body.
I hope this all helps!