Reflection: The Lessons of Over-the-Rhine

 Fall 2012, Student Experiences in Over the Rhine

The Lessons of Over-the-Rhine 

Beth Schwerman (Architecture and Interior Design at Miami University), Contributing Writer

There I was, my first night in Over-the-Rhine, trying to sleep before the neighborhood orientation started the next morning. I could not sleep for the longest time; being excited for events to come, a rattling noise that I couldn’t quite make out its source, and traffic right outside our building. I came here to experience elements and situations I would have never encountered at home or in Oxford. Who knows what would happen. Thankfully my time down here was well worth that first night of no sleep.

The residents in Over-the-Rhine who have lived here for years, some even decades, know their neighbors, say hello when you pass, and care about each other, something I’ve never had the privilege to experience before. My experience here opened my eyes to how strong these people are and how strong they need to be. Learning about gentrification in Over-the-Rhine saddens me, makes me want to fight harder to change the way our world currently works.

This eye-opening experience changed the way I look at the world and at my future. I also came to Over-the-Rhine because we would be rehabilitating a building. I love watching as buildings became magically transformed into wonderful living spaces. After this semester I will think twice about the motivations for projects like these. Yes, these magnificent buildings should be preserved and saved for future generations, but is the cost we are currently inflicting worth it? This semester didn’t change my mind on wanting to help preserve these buildings or transform them into useful spaces, but it opened my eyes to how far we need to go to do these things and keep a clean conscience.

My experiences weren’t the only things making me think, the classes broadened the scope and made us think even more about every aspect of Over-the-Rhine and inner cities across the globe. We looked at urban education, healthcare, childcare, affordable housing, homelessness, and so much more. We looked at how to make the concerns about these problems known and getting people to seriously look at these topics as well. Finally we examined how we got to this point, what options have been tried, and began to think about how we can change the way things are.

Over-the-Rhine opens your eyes to the good and the bad, and helps you analyze them and why you should choose one or the other. Here you look deeply into the way things work and how they got that way. You leave here still unsure about a lot of things because there is always more to look into and discover.

Putting this experience into words does not do it justice. I know it’s a cliché, but you almost have to be here to understand everything. It would be hard to go through this immersion experience and not come out changed, questioning the world.

Yes that first night of sleeplessness was well worth it, because now I see the world in a different light, a better light able to see the details.

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