What does it mean to be an Oliner?

Being at a small institution can be socially challenging sometimes. Being worried about what other people know about you, rumors about you, finding the right people, all of it can get to your head. You can get scared of being yourself and can end up feeling isolated. That was exactly what happened to me during my first year at Olin.

Coming to Olin in the fall of 2021, I was excited to be in a new environment and meet new people. After a rough end to high school socially, I really wanted to “fit in” at Olin. I wanted to connect with everyone and be well-engaged in the community. Knowing that many at Olin had liberal views, I was scared that I would be ostracized if I shared my faith explicitly, and people would not like me. I did not want to repeat the same struggles I did in high school. So, I decided to hide my faith/not engage with it as much as I had as a child. However, this decision hurt me more than it helped me.

Throughout my first semester, I often felt lost and that I didn’t fit in. The small community felt choking, and at times there were parts of me that wanted to leave Olin. I often would go to Babson and Wellesley College for other activities and to meet new people, but that didn’t help how I felt at Olin. During the second semester, I didn’t hide my faith as much, but I  would still put social events over faith engagements. I wasn’t making time for what was truly important to me. Letting people know who I was still wasn’t the same as expressing myself, and as a result, I still felt isolated.

Fast forward to this school year, the president of Olin Christian Fellowship sent a message in discord for people to fill out a when2meet so we could set a meeting time. I was a little hesitant to join, but I knew that after a year of pain I needed to try something new. I filled out the when2meet, yet initially, I refrained from going to the meetings. I was still concerned about what other Oliners might think. However, a third of the way through last semester, something in me said that I should go to meetings and deeply engage in this part of my life. I began to worry less about what people would think of my faith and began to consistently attend and participate more and more in OCF events. As OCF looks towards our first retreat in seven years, I am glad I decided to fully express this part of me.

Being at Olin, it can often feel like there is this pressure to be like and believe what everyone else does, but trying to fit into that cohesion can be detrimental to one’s emotional health. The fear of being hated is gut-wrenching. If Olin is to be the place it says it is, a place where engineering is for all, we as students, we as a community, need to ensure that everyone can express every part of themselves. If you feel isolated or ever feel so in the future, know that others have felt that way. You are not alone. Olin isn’t always what we hoped it would be, but we can work to shape it to be better than it currently is.

(If you are ever feeling isolated or alone, feel free to reach out to me. I know what it feels like and am more than happy to listen. You can email me at echen1@olin.edu or discord etbikehome#2392)

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