Oberlin Blogs

Ask a Friend: Winter Term Edition, 2019

January 24, 2019

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post in which I asked some friends about their winter term experiences. I thought it was neat to hear about the wide range of projects people do, so here’s the second installment!

 Ruth did a similar and awesome post too, but you truly can never have too many winter term perspectives, so here you go.

And now, some introductions…

Yasmine is a biochemistry and biology major from the Chicago area. She is one of the busiest people I know, having led many campus orgs, from the South Asian Students Association to Oberlin's debate team. She also has three sweet rescue dogs. Like the other two people featured here, she’s one of my favorite people in the universe. I’m so lucky to know her!

Hanne is a comparative American studies major and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies minor from San Francisco, California. She's a manager at the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse, a fellow Oberlin Blogger, and an incredible poet with OSLAM, among other things. We live together and never run out of things to talk about!

Joey is a comparative American studies major and eEconomics minor from Shorewood, Wisconsin. He's been my partner for almost 3.5 years now (wow!) and never fails to make me laugh. His groups on campus include Primitive Streak (a long-form improv troupe), HIV Peer Testers, and Oberlin Drama at Grafton.

And there’s me, Kira! Hey there!

From left to right: Yasmine, Hanne, Joey, and me

1) What are you doing for winter term?

Yasmine: I am doing an animal husbandry internship at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. I work closely with one aquarist and I will continue working with him during this next semester.

Hanne: This year, I am interning for the education department at the SFJAZZ Foundation. Since I've already completed three full winter term projects during college, I'm only working part time. I mostly do survey input and administrative work. I am helping with auditions for one of the center's community ensembles. I've learned a lot about arts administration and the grant-writing process, which has been cool to connect to my work at the Cat in the Cream.

Joey: I'm learning to drive! The Admissions Office always says winter term is a great opportunity to do something ‘‘you've always wanted to do but never had time.’’ This is a perfect example of a project that fits that description. My license test is scheduled for January 31.

Kira: I'm so excited to be interning at Topple Productions, the company behind the TV shows Transparent and I Love Dick. Topple is based on the Paramount Studios lot in Los Angeles. It's awesome to come to work each day at such an epicenter of film and TV production. I’ve been loving it so far.

2) What does your typical day look like?

Yasmine: Every day has the same general schedule. I start off around 8am with a morning feed for the senile seahorses and go around to every exhibit my aquarist is in charge of to complete a “check-in” sheet. We record temperatures, pressure, humidity, diet, filtration status, sump pump activity, and make comments on any other observation. We then diet-prep for every animal for the day (chop and prepare seafood, veggies, fruit, and pellets for the animals), feed the rest, work on the current exhibit we are building, and do pm check-ins before we leave around 5pm.

Hanne: My typical day has looked like getting to work at 9am, preparing survey packets for the middle schoolers who are in the SFJAZZ education program, and doing whatever other administrative duties the education department needs done. I head out around 3pm. I usually meet up with my Oberlin friend, Amy, who’s visiting! We’ve gone to a bunch of different museums, eaten lots of yummy food, and been to some poetry events and UC Berkeley talks.

Joey: I’m at home for my winter term, so I’ve gotten to spend time sleeping in late, doing bath bombs, and seeing friends. But my mom or dad will set aside some time every day to do a driving lesson with me: merging lanes, parallel parking, honking effectively, etc. Whenever my parents and I go somewhere, I drive!

Kira: Each morning, I listen to podcasts as I drive through LA traffic. Then I go into the Paramount lot to Topple’s sweet, airy office! I spend most days writing coverage—reading scripts and books that Topple is considering for development and offering my thoughts. I’ve also gotten to visit a set and meet for coffee with different people in the industry. No two days are exactly alike, since I'm always engaging with different stories and meeting new people.

3) Favorite and least favorite part of this winter term so far?

Yasmine: I absolutely love working with aquatic or “exotic” animals. They have very distinct personalities and are always entertaining. My least favorite part is probably having to work with the roaches. I have to sort through a whole container of roaches to find the right size because the animals have various mouth sizes. It is n a s t y.

Hanne: My favorite parts of winter term have been having the flexibility of only working part time, getting to spend so much time with my family, and showing Amy around the Bay. My least favorite part has been that the weather has been so bad in San Francisco. We've had a huge storm for much of Amy’s visit, so it's been hard to do as much of the outdoor stuff as I wanted.

Joey: My favorite part has been being at home and spending time with my family! I actually haven’t spent a winter term or summer break at home in a couple years now, so it has been a treat! My least favorite part has been that driving lessons don’t take up much time, so I have a lot of empty space in my days. Since most of my friends are back at school now, I’ve had a little trouble keeping myself busy.

Kira: My favorite part has definitely been the experiences I’ve had at Topple. My least favorite part is being away from my family. I spent previous winter terms at home, so I got used to having a full six weeks with my family between semesters.

4) What’s your favorite winter term that you’ve done?

Yasmine: Besides my current one, it was a trip I took to Gujarat, India, with one of my best friends and roommate, Kirsten. We got a Shansi grant for the trip. We stayed with my family whom I hadn’t seen in 8 years. I loved spending time with them and showing Kirsten around the village my family is from. We shadowed at a government veterinary hospital and learned a lot about the difference in practice and regulation between the United States and India.

Hanne: My favorite was my first project: When I collected secrets, illustrated them, and then wrote a paper about anonymity and anonymous artists! I got submissions from people far outside my social network because so many of my Facebook friends shared the form, and it was super fascinating (and poignant) to read what so many people are holding onto. I also learned that most people you meet probably have a story about pooping outside. 

Joey: This wasn’t a full winter term, but I took a week off from a different project to participate in a social justice-based mediation training with Oberlin's Yeworkwha Belachew Center for Dialogue. I learned a ton and the week remains not only a winter term highlight, but also a top-five week of my entire Oberlin career!

Kira: Honestly, my favorite is my current one! I'm meeting tons of fascinating people and having priceless experiences. Other than that, I really enjoyed last year’s winter term—I baked different recipes at home and spent a lot of time with my cute dog.

5) Is there anything you wish you had known about winter term as a prospective student that you know now?

Yasmine: I wish I knew how many on-campus resources there are for choosing a winter term project, getting funding, and going on department trips. I knew that you could do anything for an individual project, but there are also so many cool group activities you can join or organize.

Hanne: I wish I had known that winter term is a really good chance to push your comfort zone! I did creative, self-directed projects for most of my winter terms, but the year that I really challenged myself and did an internship away from home was when I grew and learned the most.

Joey: There is funding available to us! If the cost of a project is getting in the way of your availability to do it, there are various funds and grants you can apply for to cover your project. There is money available for all sorts of projects: traveling, internships, research, art. So even if you don’t think you would get money to support your project, it’s still worth applying.

Kira: It’s okay to not have the most exciting project ever. My past two winter terms were incredibly low key, but that's what I needed. It’s important to know that winter term is your time. If you need to rejuvenate and get ready for the coming semester, that’s totally fine. That being said, it's also a great opportunity to spend time in the world outside Oberlin and apply the knowledge you’re learning to new projects and experiences.

6) Advice for picking a winter term project?

Yasmine: Think about something you’ve always wanted to try but never had time for. This is your chance! Explore your interests. Get some hands-on experience and meet new people. If you can’t think of anything, ask your friends and professors for advice. You might be inspired by someone else’s winter term experience.

Hanne: My advice for picking a project is to do something that challenges you, and something that brings you joy. I think that trying to strike a healthy balance between the two is the best way to look at winter term. Also, try to be honest with yourself about what you can or can't afford. It’s really exciting to do winter term away from home, but it can also be really expensive, even if you’re staying with a friend. It’s totally possible to do meaningful and interesting projects that are within your budget. Don't get caught up in the hype of going abroad or away from home if you know you can’t make it happen financially. Also, apply for winter term funding from the Career Center. Most grants won’t cover the whole cost of a project, but it can definitely make things more manageable

Joey: Follow your heart but don't be picky! My first two projects were internships with community organizing groups. The first one wasn’t exactly the type of organization I wanted to work with, so I worked really hard to make sure I could work with the perfect organization my second year. The truth is, my first winter term was actually a lot better than my second. The organization had work for me to do, made sure I was doing work that helped me to learn and grow, and was generally filled with really great people that I'm so happy I met. My second year, I was exactly where I thought I wanted to be, but the organization really didn’t have work for an intern and the winter term fell flat. Follow your heart and interests into a general area, but don't try to force a perfect project into existence. Something else will come along and surprise you if you let it.

Kira: Wow, all of that was great advice! 

7) What’s the coolest winter term project you’ve heard about?

Yasmine: I heard about a student who got their scuba certification in the Great Barrier Reef! They got to do some underwater photography and data collection.

Hanne: Probably the Chiapas Winter Term where you get to learn social movement history from elders of the Zapatistas. 

Joey: Oberlin used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1980, nine students traveled to what was once a plantation in Greensburg, Kentucky, and then retraced the Underground Railroad all the way back to Oberlin. They only used transportation that would've been available to them before 1865 and ate foods typical of the 19th century.

Kira: Hanne’s secrets project was so unique. I also heard about a student who did oral histories of their grandparents, which sounds really neat.

8) What are you looking forward to about the coming semester?

Yasmine: Graduating! And finishing my majors. I’m ready.

Hanne: This semester, I’m looking forward to being a TA for the first time and producing my senior show. I'm also looking forward to free champagne in Senior Week!!!

Joey: Easy! Seeing my best friend and driving her to Trader Joe’s.

Kira: Hmm... Joey driving me to Trader Joe’s! Getting to immerse myself in the awesome cinema studies community and make art. Writing my capstone for comparative American studies. Going on adventures with my friends I'm already emotional about this being my last semester. I'm looking forward to making the most of the rest of my time at Oberlin.

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