I’m Nathan, I’m studying Robotics Engineering here @Olin. It's hard to believe that this is now my third year with Olin. I’ve only spent a year and half on campus with the rest of that time being remote. Despite being off campus and disconnected from Olin for that time, I was always totally excited to come back to campus in a more “normal” context.
I’m happy to report that I’m writing this from my dorm room at 9 am on a rainy Monday. I have to walk to my Discrete Math class in an hour and stop by the dining hall to pick up my daily eggs. Campus life couldn’t be better.
Being away from Olin for an extended amount of time (that was not a school break) has given me much more time to reflect on what I love about my Olin experience and why it is so awesome!
I want to talk about several of the characteristics about Olin that have been super important to my experience but are not always mentioned when talking about the “campus experience”.
If I were to give a TLDR for each of my thoughts they would be as follows:
the Dining Hall and Dorms are the foundation to shaping our community
Faculty are so much more than teachers
We are a family, we care, and we are all different
Olin (and college) is a journey that’s different for everyone and that’s okay
Engineering degrees/engineers are not the product of Olin - people are
Olin is small, everyone knows this. You can find countless other blogs talking about how this affects every person who comes to Olin (faculty and staff included).
I want to draw specific attention to the dorms and dining hall as a major contributor to the culture that is formed at Olin.
This was never apparent to me until I lived off campus, cooking my own food and living in a shared house. First, Olin’s policy of having all students live on campus creates the opportunity for more interclass interaction. At a large state school the majority of upperclassmen would be living off campus -- that’s not the case here. Just for reference, I’ve been at school for ~3 weeks and know around ~30 of the first years by name. This is actually incredible, while we may not become best friends, having connections to a variety of people older and younger than you is great for maintaining a good social circle and feeling like an integral part of the community. It’s pretty awesome to walk to class and have 5 friends that aren’t in your close circle greet you and ask if you want to study, hangout, or eat later that day.
The dining hall also adds to this social dynamic. Almost nobody cooks their own food on a regular basis. This creates two interesting phenomena: students have significantly more time because they rarely shop and cook, and the dining hall is as much a social place as a food provider.
Since people aren’t cooking, almost everyone comes to the dining hall multiple times a day, and since there are upperclassmen, there is again a huge contribution to maintaining community and building connections outside of a tight friend group. We often end up eating our food in 15 minutes and talking for almost another hour. I don’t think I’ve sat with the same group of people for a meal in the last 3 weeks. The other great thing about not cooking is that we all have much more time. This is a double-edged sword and it’s my personal belief that this is why we get ranked high on the “students who worked the most” metric (don’t worry we also are high on the “students who are happiest” :) ). This means students have more time to engage with their college experience, study, hangout with friends, participate in clubs, do research, and contribute to the community. It’s crazy how both having all students on campus and an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall included in tuition creates a strong base for the community.
I keep mentioning the Olin community as being awesome, it’s more than that, it’s like a family. Part of this comes from everyone knowing everyone and part of it comes from the relationship of the faculty and staff. At Olin we use first names in all of our interactions with faculty, we eat lunch with them and ask them how their weekends were. We care so much about each other and know that our success is tied to others’ successes. This creates such a strong relationship of trust and mutual respect.
Another thing I want to point out is the fact that all Oliners are different. We each have different interests, priorities, outlooks on life etc.
Due to our different values and engagement with different things on campus like frisbee or project teams for example, “Our Olin” is different for each of us. This is to say, your Olin (and college) experience is what you make it and it will be unique to you, it does not need to fit any stereotypes and there is no better or worse way to go through this journey.
As a closing thought I want to highlight something that I’ve come to believe:
Olin produces people, not degrees/engineers.
I say this because so much of Olin feels like a focus on ourselves as humans -- not on learning technical engineering content. To this end Olin has been an emotional and self-reflective journey as much as a technical one. While I can’t speak for others, I feel that many Oliners would agree that we learn equally as much about ourselves as engineering. I think this makes us great engineers and even better people.
We can’t wait for you to find your Olin!