Interview by: James Cato
September 25, 2017
Ritesh Isuri is a second-year Oberlin College student who lives in a co-op. He hails from the Mauritius, an island nation off the southeast Coast of Africa, and is a frequent volunteer both at home and in his new home, Oberlin Ohio. Ritesh is interested in the environment and has volunteered with the Western Reserve Conservancy and OCS.
Q: Tell me about the organizations you volunteer for?
A: “My volunteering is OCS, mainly. We get lots of donations from people from the town. It helps certain people who are in need with monthly distributions of foodstuffs. We help run the food bakery and other things that people might need in their homes.”
Q: What about the Western Reserve Conservancy?
A: “The Western Reserve helps protect the native plants of Ohio. That means we are planting trees, uprooting invasive plants, and doing regular checkups on the land.”
Q: How has volunteering here changed your perception of the town of Oberlin?
A: “When you first get here—for me, I am from a different country, so the U.S. was new for me. Lots of people here didn’t seem very friendly…[laughs] it wasn’t easy to make friends. But when you get to meet townspeople, and work with them, you actually learn what Oberlin’s about. You’re not confined to just the College anymore. You start to know how friendly they are, how cool they are, and how things really are. Everyone says Oberlin has nothing, but when you really get into volunteering, and you get to know people around the town, you really know Oberlin.
I think volunteering is the best way to get to know the place where you’re studying. When you volunteer you know the surroundings and the real people. If you’re studying here for four years, it makes sense to know where you’ve been, not just in respect to the College.”
"Volunteering is the best way to get to know the place where you're studying."
Q: How would you describe the identity of Oberlin?
A: “I don’t think people have a good idea of what Oberlin is before they come here. Oberlin city is like a utopian bubble; you can feel it around you in the town. People around here are very open minded. You might think that’s just a college thing, but it’s also how the town has constructed itself over the years and how the people are…you can see a united goal. People will always be ready to help you in Oberlin. I told my advisor that I didn’t get spices here, and she grew peppers for me in her own yard. That’s how we are here. Everyone here knows each other, it’s a very connected town. Everyone here works together to achieve a common goal.”