Oberlin Blogs

Big Choices

April 21, 2010

Tess Yanisch ’13

As one of my friends put it recently, this time of year isn't necessarily the most academically intense, but it's the busiest. This past weekend was the Improv Conference, Dandelion Romp (folk music and dancing), and Relay for Life, all at once. You can't walk outside without meeting someone on their way to rehearsal for their play or musical group, to go see a lecture, or to finish some big project. There are movie festivals, dance concerts, senior recitals, and at least two plays going on right now with more coming up fast. Obiegame, a town-wide puzzle-solving and scavenger hunt competition, starts up soon. Prospies are everywhere--I've seen an absurd number of tour groups lately and had lunch with a prospie who's been waitlisted yesterday. (I hope she gets in--she was fun and seemed very excited about Oberlin.)

And as if this wasn't enough, we have to register for housing and classes.

Two blooming trees outside of the science center
Oberlin is pretty in the spring--a good distraction from all the work!

The housing system was changed around a bit this year. Supposedly it makes more sense now than it did before--I don't know, 'cause I wasn't here. I've gotten mixed reactions from people. I've overheard a lot of random conversations in which people were very disappointed because they didn't get in where they wanted to. On the other hand, most of my friends are quite happy. I've noticed that most of my friends also happen to be living in program housing. A tip, then, people: I think if you really want to get a certain place pretty-much-for-sure, program housing is the way to go. It's themed and you have to apply to it specially, but you're more likely to get in the place you're angling for. Lots of my friends are going to be in Barnard again next year; I also know a lot of people who got rooms in French House and are very happy about it.

As for me, after a period of intense (and I mean intense; ridiculous, really, but I shall explain) debate and soul-searching, I decided to live with my friend Emma on the Science-Fiction/Fantasy Hall next year.

It was a difficult choice to make. I'd only visited Hall once, although that was a great experience: Emma and I had made brownies there, since Barnard's oven is broken and some other people were using the oven in her dorm. We shared the brownies with the people on Hall. They have a tiny TV-room off their main lounge, and as soon as we said "Who wants brownies?" the door to that room opened up and an astonishing number of people poured out. It was like clowns in a tiny car. The brownies were gone in about 45 seconds. I was invited to go join a small band in a Nerf gun fight and accepted enthusiastically. Delightful chaos ensued. It was a truly excellent night.

Beyond that, I know many of the people on Hall because they're in my Genre Fiction Writing Workshop ExCo. They are more rambunctious than people at Barnard, but intensely fun. SF Hall does have a bit of a reputation for being noisy at times, but also very respectful of people's opinions--if you want them to tone it down, they will. Apparently, they're almost all like me and Emma: willing to discuss Star Trek or Neil Gaiman or Lord of the Rings intensely for a long time but then suddenly get peopled-out, have an attack of introversion, and retreat into their rooms. It is such a relief to know people will understand that!

I was told this under slightly unusual circumstances: when I was kidnapped/recruited at eleven at night about a month ago.

See, they knew I was dithering, and the deadline for signing up was fast approaching. One night I opened the door to go take my shower and found two emissaries from the Hall standing right outside it, preparing to knock. We all screamed and jumped backwards. When we finished laughing at ourselves, they explained their mission--to convince me and Emma to come live with them next year. We all went to talk with Emma.

They answered all our questions, including the above one about whether or not people would be understanding of an attack of introversion. We conferred briefly, made our decision, and went to the Hall to look at the available rooms. So we actually knew exactly where we were going to be living when we had our housing appointment--it was just a confirmation procedure, which was nice.

Science-Fiction/Fantasy Hall is the north half of the second floor of Langston Hall, commonly referred to as "North," because it's the northernmost dorm on campus. It's X-shaped--looks like an X-wing from the top.

This is the west side of North. Pretty, isn't it?

Blooming plants and trees next to North dorm


I love Barnard, and I'm going to go back and visit certain people a lot next year (and get them to come visit me!), but I'm really looking forward to living on the Hall next year. There's a real community there; always something going on in the lounge, etc. They run themselves in a sort of rational anarchy--it's probably as co-op-esque as you can get without actually living in one. Anyway, the community aspect was a real draw. So, I must admit, was the interest they showed in me and Emma--they said several times that we were the kind of people they thought would fit right in. Flattery is a powerful tool...and laughing at my Star Trek jokes, too; let's be honest here.

So that's one kind of registration. Class registration is also going on. At Oberlin, your registration time is determined strictly by the number of credits you have, counting transfer or AP credits. I have a pretty decent registration time for a first-year because I have a full semester's worth of AP credits (technically I have sophomore standing, I guess). But upperclassmen have been registering already all week. My window doesn't open until Friday evening.

I've been lucky with registration so far. I'm a bit nervous now about getting into the classes I want. I have long lists of contingency plans/alternate courses, but I have an ideal schedule worked out that will give me a fair amount of free time but still give me lots of good classes--without overloading. (You have to take between twelve and sixteen credits per semester [between twelve and seventeen if you're double-degree]; any more than sixteen and you have to pay extra. Most classes are three or four credits.)

Planning next semester required a lot of soul-searching too, mainly because I had to decide whether or not I want to be a psychology major. You don't have to declare a major until you have 56 credits (the end of sophomore year for most people; the end of next semester for Emma, who has a TON of AP credits), but for scheduling reasons, I decided I had to know now.

You see, one of the requirements for the Psychology major is a two-semester-long Research Methods course. It's strongly recommended that majors take Methods I and Methods II the same year. I want to spend a semester of my junior year abroad, so I can't take it then, and I want to have something like that done by my senior year; it's probably a prerequisite for one or two upper-level classes anyway. That means I have to take it next year. It's not a class I'd take for fun, though, so there would be no point in taking it if I decided not to be a Psych major--it would be a waste of two class slots I could otherwise have spent taking art history, or astronomy, or modern dance, or something! So this was crunch time.

And I was crunched. Being very introspective is handy in many ways--I can tell why I'm really upset when I start wigging out about little things, I'm very attuned to what makes me happy or uncomfortable, I'm usually fairly self-confident--but when it comes to decision-making, it's almost more of a handicap than a help. It was bad enough when deciding between Barnard and SF Hall, but this was worse. Do I really want to do this, or do I just feel like I should want to do this? Have I properly explored my other options, or am I just latching onto this major because I want to be the kind of person who would be a psych major? That's a psychological issue right there--the fact that I'm wondering about identity and motivation means I would probably have fun as a psych major, so that's a point in favor. But then again, it's related to the views of society and cultural expectations. Would sociology or anthropology maybe work better? . . . .

I eventually got out of this thought-spiral and wrote a list of things that interest me: decision-making, identity formation, creativity and motivation, forms of interaction (including graffiti and social media), and education/child development as a social necessity, especially the impact of Head Start programs and media influences on children. Most of these have to do with the relationship between the individual and society, which means I am going to be a Psychology major, focusing on social psychology classes. Sociology and Anthropology are a little too broad for things like that.

Basically, I want to study how people work in relationship to other people. This could cover everything from advertising to school bullying to what makes relationships work or not (parent/child, romantic, friends, whatever). It would be very research-based. I don't think I could stand being a clinical psychologist--I would take everything far too personally. Heck, I feel empathy for my computer when Firefox crashes and it pops up the little "We're Sorry!" box. I want to comfort it and tell it a crashing browser is not its fault. Working with depressed or anxious people on a daily basis would send me into counseling. (However, alternatively, there's a branch of psychology that studies the interaction between people and their environments or tools...maybe I could study what makes people want to provide a supportive environment for their hard-working computers.)

Graffiti written on a stall that says "if you're healthy right now, smile. If not, dance" Random bathroom graffiti from Peters, the language building.

Anyway, having (probably) decided on my (likely) major, I had to sit down with the online course catalog and try to winnow down all the awesomeness therein to four classes--NOT an easy task. Then I had to check the time slots and make sure none of them overlapped. I don't register until tonight, so I don't know if I will get into the classes I want, but I have my ideal schedule all lined up and ready to go. It turns out that if I take two Psychology classes each semester next year, I will only have to take one a semester (on average) the next two years, giving me lots of room to try new things. I fully expect it to be all over the map, although I'll probably end up accumulating enough credits in English or Anthropology or History or something like that to have a minor if I want it.

Graffiti in different languages

Since it's the language building, a lot of the graffiti is not in English. The pink here says "Je ne comprends pas ce que vous avez ecrit"--French for "I don't understand what you wrote." Moi non plus (me neither)--any readers who can translate for me?


Meanwhile, life continues in all its day-to-day hectic-ness. I have to write a story for my Genre Fiction ExCo; make up a missed fencing class; watch last week's Stargate: Universe show, which I missed because of the the improv conference, so that I can see this week's episode, which is apparently going to be awesome because Daniel Jackson is supposedly going to be on it (I haven't seen any previous incarnations of Stargate, but my friends inform me that Daniel Jackson is basically raw amazing on toast). Then I have to read two chapters in my textbook and some online articles for Neuroscience; read at least one chapter of Psychology and take an online quiz on it; begin an essay in French; lifeguard; go to a birthday party; rack up at least one more Supplemental Activity credit for Psychology; and go to Barnard's Lion King-themed party this weekend.

About par for the course, this time of year.

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