FRESHMAN FOCUS: Isabelle Leavy, ’17, builds bikes, dances burlesque at Oberlin College
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Isabelle Leavy, ‘17, currently attends Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and plans to double major in biology and anthropology.
Q: How big are your classes?
A: My biggest class is around 60 students, and my smallest is around 15.
Q: Do you like the sizes?
A: Definitely. I feel like it’s a good sweet spot. There are enough people to fill up an auditorium but few enough for the teachers to know each of us by name.
Q: What’s your favorite class?
A: Right now, probably Biology, just because it’s like AP Biology at Country Day, except easier. I’m just able to put everything together easily, and that’s fun for me.
My favorite overall has been Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. It’s mostly lecture-based, but my teacher was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. She was extremely eloquent, and she could speak in phenomenal ways. Even if you weren’t interested in the material, the way she spoke would draw you in. Her class made me completely rethink people and the world around them.
Q: Least favorite?
A: Currently, I don’t really like my Problems of Philosophy class. It’s slow, and the teacher’s PowerPoint slides are ugly. The class is just a waste of time.
My least favorite so far was called Renaissance Anatomy to Modern Medicine. It was the coolest topic, but our teacher was so unequipped to teach the course that everyone bonded over it. It was a very frustrating class.
Q: Have you participated in any traditions?
A: We don’t really have any in the way that most colleges do, but there is this one thing known as an art rental. We have this massive museum on campus with tons of art. Students can wake up really early to enter a lottery, and if your ticket gets pulled, you get to take a piece of artwork from the museum for free. They are really famous pieces of art too. People have taken home Picassos.
But I have never participated because I didn’t want to wake up early.
Q: Have you participated in any clubs?
A: I’m most involved in Burlesque. It’s kind of like a strip club without pole dancing. It’s a bunch of people being extremely body positive. It’s technically dance, so it’s good exercise. It’s also performing-arts-based, but it’s really just taking your clothes off on stage and dancing and being whoever you are. It’s a really cool experience.
I also am interning at a bike co-op. I do shifts there, and I follow around the mechanics and do whatever they tell me to do. Sometimes I just do cleanup work. Basically just whatever is needed to help out. In return I learn how to build a bike, and I get my own free bike that I built.
Q: Did you transition well?
A: Academically, I felt pretty damn prepared. I think it’s nice to go from a space where it is so small – and, as a result, you don’t get a chance to do some of the things you want to do – to a place where you can do everything. This also makes for a very easy transition.
Q: Are the majority of the students very studious, or are they big partiers?
A: Definitely studious. Oberlin is famously known as not a party school. We don’t have frats or sororities. We definitely have less of a party culture than what you would expect at a college, but people still have fun. It’s less crazy party stuff but more small group environments.
Q: How do you get around Oberlin?
A: I walk everywhere. You need a car if you want to go anywhere other than the town of Oberlin. I’m hoping to save up for a car, but I’m not there yet.
Q: What is the town like?
A: Oberlin is basically a tiny town in the middle of a bunch of cornfields. We are about 30 minutes outside of Cleveland, but there is no subway system or any easy way to get to Cleveland. There are around five restaurants nearby, a general store, banks and a hotel. But that’s about it. It’s cute but a little sad sometimes. It’s really small but livable.
Q: What is your dorm like?
A: I’m in a really nice dorm, actually. I’m in the “Environmental Awareness” building, which is ironic because it probably has the worst surrounding environment. It’s the only dorm with air conditioning. I had to write an essay to get in, and all of the floors are coed, which is much more enjoyable and livable for me.
Q: How are your roommates?
A: I have one named Julia. We are fine. We are definitely friends, but we aren’t super close. We coexist with one another.
Q: What is the weather like?
A: It’s definitely cold, but the cold isn’t the issue. To anyone considering living close to a lake, it’s not the cold that’s going to get you – it’s the wind. The snow has been doable. I was actually surprised at how survivable the cold is.
For people considering college options, don’t let the weather dictate where you go. That’s something you learn to deal with and learn to like. Choose a college because it’s a good fit for you.
Q: Has the college lived up to your expectations so far?
A: My expectations were extremely low. I did not want to go. I hated it initially. But within the first couple of weeks, I realized the people I had met were the kindest people. It’s a theme I’ve really noticed here, and that’s really important.
I ultimately chose this college despite my dislike for the school because I got a good scholarship, and the biology department is really well funded.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Oberlin?
A: Probably the people, first and foremost. People here are really weird. Oberlin has a reputation of their students being hippies, and I won’t say it’s wrong. But it’s better to hang out with hippies than others because they are nice people. I also really like how the campus looks. It’s really pretty.
Q: What don’t you like about it?
A: First of all, I don’t like being in the middle of nowhere. Second, it’s not ideal being in Ohio going to Oberlin, just because Oberlin is known to be an extremely liberal college. Ohio is a very red state, and everyone around Oberlin is very religious. If you leave Oberlin, and someone knows you go to Oberlin, people will be very unkind to you just because you don’t see eye-to-eye politically.
Q: What makes Oberlin unique?
A: The idea of Oberlin was to create an East Coast feel for college with brick buildings but in the Midwest, and I think they did a very good job of achieving that. It was also a major stop on the Underground Railroad. Oberlin was also the first college to admit African Americans and women.
Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?
A: I gained like 10 pounds, but other than that, I don’t think so. I’ve locked myself out of my room, and I’ve gotten lost, but nothing else, really.
Q: What is your advice for the class of 2018?
A: Take an anthropology class. It will be the coolest class ever, and it might really change your view of the world.
Don’t think about the weather too much when considering colleges, and it’s okay if you’re not super excited about your college choice. It might surprise you. And don’t let any apprehension that you have prevent you from doing things you want to do.
Five-star or subpar?
School spirit ☆
Student-teacher interaction ☆☆☆☆☆
—By Bri Davies